Do I Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer If I’m Arrested For a Misdemeanor?
Misdemeanor can often be a misnomer. Too often we think about misdemeanors by directly comparing them to felonies. Yes, they are less serious than felonies. However, that doesn’t mean that a misdemeanor charge isn’t serious, in and of itself.
It is a costly mistake to assume that misdemeanors do not come with serious consequences. This is why it is important to hire a criminal defense lawyer if you are arrested for a misdemeanor.
Here are five reasons why you shouldn’t hesitate to contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer if you’re arrested for a misdemeanor offense.
It is Your Right
The Sixth Amendment of the US Constitution states, “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial…[and] have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.” This right is not just for felonies. Those accused of misdemeanors are also guaranteed the right to an attorney.
Although you could use a public defender, public defenders are often saddled with a large caseload and cannot pay your case enough attention. Hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney will improve your chances of winning the case.
When charged with a misdemeanor, your legal journey begins with an arraignment. You will stand in a court and the judge will ask how you plead to each of the misdemeanor charges of which you are accused. Guilty or Not Guilty? If you are representing yourself, those are pretty much your only two options.
Criminal defense lawyers know how to develop winning legal strategies. When you have an attorney by your side, they can file motions to have the charges dismissed for a variety of reasons (unlawful arrest, illegal search, no evidence to support the state’s case) or ask to have the charges against you reduced.
Avoiding Jail Time & Lowering Fines
In California, criminal misdemeanors, by definition, carry a maximum sentence of one year in county jail. And, most misdemeanors in California are punishable by a fine. In addition to helping reduce your charges, criminal defense attorneys can help you reduce the prison sentences and minimize the penalties you could face if convicted of certain charges.
Your lawyer will know how to find weaknesses in the state’s case against you and use those to your advantage. That could mean negotiating a reduced sentence or getting you off the hook, altogether.
Keeping Your Record Clean
Misdemeanors show up on your permeant record. That’s true, even if you’re never charged or convicted of a crime. A record of your arrest will be on file. Although you do not have to disclose misdemeanors on job applications, misdemeanors will show up on criminal background checks. This means that having a misdemeanor on your record can prevent you from getting a job, securing housing, qualifying for loans, even volunteering in the community.
In addition to increasing your chance of being found not guilty, a criminal defense lawyer can help you expunge misdemeanor convictions from your record.
Wobblers and Wobblettes
In California, prosecutors are given some leeway in how they charge certain crimes. There are some crimes that they can charge them as either felonies or misdemeanors. These charges are called wobblers because they could go either way, depending on the specific circumstances of your case. Having a criminal defense attorney is critical in limiting the likelihood of being charged with a felony, rather than a misdemeanor.
There are also wobblettes. These are charges that wobble between misdemeanor and infraction. In California, infractions cannot carry jail time and do not go on your permanent record. Most infractions only result in a small fine. If your misdemeanor charge is one of these wobblettes, a criminal defense attorney can help negotiate your charge down to an infraction.