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Dallas Criminal Defense Lawyer

Dallas Criminal Defense Lawyer

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.

dallas nc criminal attorney

What Is a Criminal Defense Attorney?

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.


What Kinds of Crimes Do Criminal Defense Lawyers Defend?

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:

  • DUIs: Driving while under the influence, or a DUI / DWI, is the criminal charge for operating a vehicle while impaired by alcohol. The charges for a DUI / DWI can escalate based on prior convictions. Damage done at the time of an arrest, including any harm done to other people, can affect the final charges. Laura’s Law, passed in 2011, escalates the penalties for a DUI / DWI, increasing prison time, fines, and restrictions on drivers with past DUI / DWI convictions. Depending on the facts of your case, your defense attorney can design a defense against your charges.
  • Homicide: Homicide, manslaughter, and murder are all very serious criminal charges that come with hefty legal consequences. Even in cases of involuntary manslaughter, the jail time and impact of these charges can follow you for life. Although no executions have been performed by the state since 2006, capital punishment is still a possible consequence for murder and can be assigned for certain extreme murder charges. Although unlikely, your defense attorney will understand this as they work through your case, helping you avoid this punishment.
  • Theft Crimes: Any instance of stolen property, whether it be physical property as the result of a break-in or the theft of another’s funds, is punishable by law. North Carolina General Statutes 14-72 outline the types of theft, often referred to as larceny, which include property theft, possession of stolen goods, intention to shoplift, shoplifting, employee theft, “chop shop” activity, and motor vehicle parts theft. Besides direct property theft, white-collar crimes, like identity theft or transaction theft with credit cards, are included in this category. These charges are always pursued at the felony level and can be hard to combat without proper representation.
  • Domestic Violence: Domestic violence charges and accusations are extremely serious, and they carry severe legal consequences. These charges usually include assault, making threats, harassing phone calls, stalking, online stalking, and breaking a protective order set in place by a previous court decision. All these accusations of domestic abuse have one thing in common: the victim and the offender are intimately acquainted, either by family ties, relationship status, or marriage. Approaching any domestic violence case requires a very careful, unbiased legal team.
  • Drug Crimes: Drug possession, paraphernalia possession, and intent to sell or manufacture drugs all fall under the category of drug crimes. The penalties for drug charges in North Carolina range based on the substance classification, the amount of the substance, and whether you intend to sell that substance. For example, possession of around an ounce of marijuana will result in around 120 days in jail, whereas the same amount of heroin can lead to felony charges and prolonged jail time.

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.

dallas nc criminal lawyer

Can Defense Attorneys Choose Their Cases?

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.


What Is the Difference Between a Felony and a Misdemeanor?

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.

Misdemeanor Convictions

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:

  • Class 3: The least severe category of misdemeanors, with a maximum penalty of $1,000 in fines and 20 days in jail.
  • Class 2: Moving up in severity, these misdemeanors result in a maximum jail sentence of 60 days and $1,000 in fines.
  • Class 1: A judge-ordered fine and up to 120 days in jail are the possible penalties for this kind of offense. A hate crime would be charged as a Class 1 misdemeanor if the original charge, a Class 2 or 3 misdemeanor, was motivated by bias against the victim’s race, nationality, religion, color, or place of origin.
  • Class 1A: Bordering on a felony conviction, these misdemeanors are penalized with up to 160 days in jail and a discretionary fine based on the facts of the case.

Felony Convictions

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:

  • Class A: Life in prison or the death penalty
  • Class B1: 12 years to life in prison
  • Class B2: 8 to 35 years in prison
  • Class C: 3 ½ to 15 years in prison
  • Class D: 3 to 13 years in prison
  • Class E: 15 months to over 5 years in prison
  • Class F: 10 months to almost 3 ½ years in prison
  • Class G: 8 months to almost 2 ½ years in prison
  • Class H: 4 months to over 2 years in prison
  • Class I: 3 months to a year in prison

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:

  • Class A: 10 points
  • Class B1: 9 points
  • Class B2, C, and D: 6 points
  • Class E, F, and G: 4 points
  • Class H and I: 2 points
  • All misdemeanors: 1 point

To determine the defendant’s record, these points are added up and put into levels, which are as follows:

  • Level I: 0-1 point
  • Level II: 2-5 points
  • Level III: 6-9 points
  • Level IV: 10-13 points
  • Level V: 14-17 points
  • Level VI: 18+ points

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:

  • The presumptive range is used as a standard range for felony convictions.
  • The aggravated range is used in instances of violent crimes.
  • The mitigated range is for cases where factors like child support, family obligations, or countenance are factored into the final conviction.

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.

FAQs About Dallas, NC Criminal Defense Law

Is It Right for a Lawyer to Defend a Criminal?

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.

How Does a Defense Attorney Prepare for a Case?

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.

What Does a Defense Lawyer Do?

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.

What Is the Objective of a Criminal Defense Lawyer?

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.

What Is the Difference Between a Prosecutor and a Defense Attorney?

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.

Contact The Law Firm of Brent D. Ratchford

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.


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