Unlike a misdemeanor, a felony is an extremely serious matter. Regardless of the crime, felony charges come with dire consequences. While a misdemeanor may carry some time at the county jail and perhaps a fine, being convicted of a felony is different.
A felony conviction will almost always come with jail time, and in addition you may lose certain privileges such as the right to vote or to earn a professional certification. In some cases, you may even be ordered to pay restitution.
If you have been arrested on suspicion of having committed a felony, it is important to follow the steps below to get a proper felony defense.
- You Have The Right To Remain Silent
Popularized by countless Hollywood movies, this line is more fact than fiction. Entrenched in the Fifth Amendment, every citizen has the right to not incriminate themselves by what they say. If you have been arrested on suspicion of committing a felony, politely tell the police that you would like to exercise your right to remain silent.
Keep in mind that though the police are bound to respect your request, they will still try to get you to speak and incriminate yourself. Stick to your rights and only agree to speak with the police with your defense lawyer present.
- Do Not Resist Arrest
While you may believe you are innocent and would want to insist on this during arrest, do not. When suspected of a felony, police will almost always come in an aggressive manner during the arrest. This is not the time to prove you are innocent. Remain calm during the questioning and remember to exercise your right to remain silent.
Remember it is not to the police you have to prove your innocence. You will have ample chance for this when you appear before a judge. Keep calm and contact your defense lawyer immediately, as we explain next.
- Contact A Defense Lawyer Immediately
After you have been arrested, the police and prosecution will want to gain as much incriminating evidence against you as possible. To make sure you do not undergo this without proper representation, contact your defense lawyer immediately.
They will understand all the technical terms being used and know how to respond or how to help you respond to questions being asked. Having them there will also ensure you do not agree to a plea bargain that is not in your best interest. This is the single most important thing to do when facing felony charges.
- Determine The Charges You Are Facing
As explained above, felony charges differ widely from misdemeanor charges. Once you have been arrested, know which charges are being brought against you and what these charges mean.
Understanding the gravity of the situation will help you take the necessary steps to mount a defense against them. In this case, having a defense lawyer explain these charges to you is important. They understand the charges and the punishment that may come with those charges.
- Speak To Your Lawyer Before Posting Bail
You may have seen it in the movies. Someone is arrested, and their family immediately post bail. Do not do this. Speak to your defense lawyer first before you or your family posts bail. There are several factors that will affect your bail, and these must be considered first.
These include whether the charges will be dropped at the arraignment, what bail will be set by the judge, if any, etc. Rushing to post bail may end up in loss of thousands of dollars.
- Tell Your Defense Lawyer Everything
Complete honesty with your defense lawyer is the best way to equip them well for your defense. Regardless of what you must tell them, withholding information will cripple them when it comes to defending you properly. What you must remember here is that what you tell them is protected by client-attorney privileges.
That means, under threat of sanctions and debarment, your defense lawyer cannot share what you tell them with anyone else. Knowing you can trust them fully should give you the confidence to share all pertinent information.
- Do Not Discuss The Arrest With Friends Or Family
On the other hand, after being arrested, do not speak about the arrest or charges with your friends or family, no matter how close. While the law in some states does protect your spouse from having to testify against you, in some it does not.
This law also does not cover other family members. To avoid risking injury to your case, tell your family and friends that you are not at liberty to discuss the arrest and case until the matter is determined before a court.
- Write Down Your Account Of Events
Your memory is your first defense. Because details get lost over time, write down your account of events as soon as you can. The prosecution and police will also try and twist the facts to favor their case and get you to say something that helps their case.
Writing down the facts will help you maintain a consistent story. These facts will also help your defense lawyer as he prepares your defense.
- List Potential Witnesses
As you were there when the alleged felony happened, you alone know best who can testify in your favor. As you note down the facts of the events, also note down all witnesses that you know can be of assistance to your case.
Also include character witnesses or people who can help show the judge that you are incapable of committing the felony. Your defense lawyer will then follow up with these witnesses and interview them to see if they can corroborate your story.
- Show Up To All Proceedings
Lastly, do not miss a single hearing. While in misdemeanor hearings the judge may not require you to be present, they will require you to attend all felony hearings. You also want to show the court that you are taking the matter seriously.
While you may want to go on with your life, having the felony charges conferred against you dropped should be your priority. Set alarms and reminders for all hearings keeping in mind the court will never send you a friendly reminder that your case is coming up.
Felony charges are as serious as they get. Do not take them lightly and do not take matters into your own hands. If you find yourself in such a situation, make sure you have a trusted defense lawyer by your side.