No matter if you officially committed a crime, seeking a defense attorney after any criminal accusation is the best course of action for any case. Criminal charges, regardless of legal escalation, should never be taken lightly, especially bigger infractions that can go on your permanent record. Fortunately, for those in the Dallas, North Carolina area, the legal team at The Law Firm of Brent D. Ratchford can help analyze your predicament and create the defense needed to win your case.
Criminal defense lawyers are tasked with advising and defending any person accused of any crime, ranging from misdemeanors to felonies. For most lawyers, these cases can range from simple, first-time DUI / DWI charges to full-scale homicide cases, meaning that these legal professionals must have an in-depth knowledge of all state criminal law statutes. Criminal defense lawyers have the knowledge and skills to operate inside the criminal justice system. They know how these criminal charges are created, administered, and justified from both the perspective of the state and the defense. This gives them the ability to analyze your case from all angles.
Criminal defense deals with criminal law, meaning that lawyers in this field are suited to defend clients accused of certain crimes. Any case dealing with a breach of the law, and subsequent criminal charges, can be taken on by a defense attorney. This includes felonies and misdemeanors alike. Some of these crimes include:
The extent of North Carolina’s criminal statutes is very broad, and this list only represents a portion of the crimes dealt with by defense attorneys. Some charges, like assault, have a very broad range of related crimes that fit into that category, each with a very nuanced sentencing procedure. Every case and charge is unique, and a top defense attorney can handle any client regardless of the subject matter.
When approached with a case, a defense attorney has full control over whether they choose to take on a client. However, once this agreement is made, that attorney is legally required to represent that client in court. In some circumstances, a lawyer can drop a case once they have agreed to represent a certain client, but this must be a legitimate reason beyond personal disagreements with the case. For example, if a lawyer takes on a case and has a personal objection to their client’s actions, they must represent that client for the duration of the case. Public defenders, or lawyers appointed by the state, are also bound by this statute.
The main difference between a felony and a misdemeanor is the severity of the punishment. A misdemeanor conviction carries a maximum sentence of 150 days in prison. However, the minimum sentence for a felony conviction is twelve months in prison. All crimes that are subject to the death penalty are considered felonies, and there is no specific definition of maximum sentences.
Misdemeanors are not as serious as felonies when prosecuted, but they are still significant crimes and need to be treated as such. The state categorizes these offenses into four groups:
Every felony sentence carries different penalties based on the defendant’s criminal history. Everyone convicted of a Class A felony, regardless of record, faces the death penalty or life in prison. For other offenses, sentences may combine fines and probation as opposed to harsher penalties like prolonged prison sentences. The court in your case would consider the gravity of the offense as well as your prior criminal history when making a final judgment. North Carolina has 10 felony classes that all carry different sentencing limits, and the breakdown for these classifications includes:
After determining the felony class, the prior convictions on the defendant’s record are matched up to a point system based on each prior conviction. This will include both felonies and misdemeanors, with each conviction carrying a specific number of points:
To determine the defendant’s record, these points are added up and put into levels, which are as follows:
The final piece that determines how to prosecute a particular felony is the disposition range of the current crime. This range varies based on the criminal record, the nature of the current conviction, and the felony class of these prior convictions:
After considering all these factors, the plan for prosecution is solidified. For example, if a person’s prior record puts them at a Level III in the aggravated range, and they are currently being charged with a Class C felony, their expected sentence is 8 to 10 years in prison.
Under the Constitution, having legal representation in court through due process is a right offered to all citizens, regardless of the crime. The premise of assuming innocence until proven guilty is a guiding principle in the legal field, especially for defense attorneys. The best defense lawyers will listen to your story and review the facts of the case to help build a strong defense for your position.
Instead of accepting the prosecutor’s version of events at face value, the best defense lawyers will conduct their own investigations into their clients’ cases. This is typically done by speaking to witnesses, reviewing crime scene information, and going over state-gathered evidence. They can then compare the facts of the case with your story to create a solid defense.
A defense lawyer is hired to represent any person accused of committing a crime in court. If you cannot afford an attorney, you have the constitutional right to have a public defender appointed to represent you. Regardless of the infraction, a defense lawyer’s job is to uphold an individual’s right to due process during a court appearance. Although you are not legally required to have one, a defense lawyer is your best asset when facing any criminal charges.
Criminal defense lawyers specialize in criminal law, so their primary objective in a case is to counter the evidence presented by the prosecution. Even in cases where the evidence is seemingly irrefutable, a talented defense attorney’s job is to find the cracks in the prosecution’s case and open them up for questioning.
In general, a prosecutor is crafting a case to prove that a law was broken and that the defendant was the one who broke that law. On the other hand, a defense attorney is tasked with finding the faults in the prosecution’s case to defend their client. Both are considered legal counsel, but one is working to convict the accused, while the other is working to prove their innocence.
No matter how straightforward or complicated your case may seem to be, you should take the time to speak with a criminal defense attorney about your case. At The Law Firm of Brent D. Ratchford, our experienced Dallas criminal defense attorneys can provide the counsel needed to properly represent your case and defend you in court. Your personalized legal defense begins with a brief consultation with our team, helping us get a feel for your case and plan out how we can help. For more information on our services, including a full list of our practice areas, visit our website and contact us today.