What should I do if the police are looking for me and leave a phone message or business card at my house?

Do not talk to the police directly.  Anything you say can, and will — I promise you — be used against you.  Even the most seemingly innocent statement can harm your legal position.  The police may only need you to say that you were at the mall that night in order to have enough to arrest you.  That may be the one piece of the case they can’t prove without you admitting it and helping them.  So don’t talk to the police directly.  A lawyer should call the police on your  behalf.  A lawyer can determine immediately if the police already have enough to make an arrest, or if they need some sort of admission from you in order to have enough to arrest.  And you can bet that if the police do not have enough to arrest you, they will not obtain that additional information from your lawyer.  In addition, if the police already have enough to arrest you, then your lawyer arranging a mutually convenient time to surrender you to the police station will work to your benefit.  I generally make the surrender appointment about one week in the future so I can tell the arraignment judge that my client had an appointment to surrender, and kept that appointment.  If my client were going to flee, he had one week in which to do so, but he did not.  He is therefore not a flight risk and the court should set low bail, or no bail at all.  In addition, I like to tell the judge that if my client were a dangerous person or a flight risk, the police would not have allowed a voluntary surrender one week into the future, but would rather have gone and arrested him right away.

What is an arraingment court?

An arraignment is the very first step in the court process after an arrest.  In most instances, the arraignment takes place within 24 hours of the arrest.  It is where an arrested person sees the judge for the first time.  Learn more click here.

What is a bail bond?

When a judge sets bail at an arraignment, he or she sets a cash bail with a bond alternative. For example, a judge may set bail at $10,000 cash/$20,000 bond. This means a person can be released from jail with the payment of $10,000 cash or the posting of a bail bond in the amount of $20,000. A bail bond is an insurance policy. Basically, the bonding company insures the defendant’s appearance in court until the final disposition of his/her case. Once the underwriting and indemnification of the bail bond is completed, a bond company agent will present the bond to the court of proper jurisdiction, and the defendant gets released. A bail bond costs approximately 10% of the bond amount in a non-refundable fee, plus the company will want collateral of some kind. Usually the collateral is the deed to a house or some other real estate. It can also be additional funds contained in a bank account which are frozen there until the bond is release. In our example above, the bond company would charge 10% of the bond amount, approximately $2000, in a non-refundable fee, plus they would require some collateral. Surely this is more feasible for some families who don’t have $10,000 cash liquid and available right away. The bond fee can also be paid with a credit card. Lastly, cash bail is returned to the person who paid it upon completion of the case as long as the defendant made all his court appearances. Likewise, the bail bond gets released at the end of the case and the bond company releases the collateral it was holding.

What is the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony?

A misdemeanor is any crime for which the sentence can be a maximum of one year in jail. A felony is any crime for which the sentence can be in excess of one year in jail. Misdemeanors in New York are broken down into class A and B misdemeanors. A class A misdemeanor carries a maximum sentence of one year in jail. A class B misdemeanor carries a maximum sentence of 90 days in jail. Felonies are broken down into class A, B, C, D, and E. A class E carries a maximum of 4 years in prison, a class D carries a maximum of 7 years, a class C carries a maximum of 15 years, a class B carries a maximum of 25 years, and a class A carries the possibility of life in prison. There is no death penalty in the state of New York. Minimum sentences vary depending on the grade of crime, whether it is defined as a violent crime, and the defendant’s prior criminal record. On Long Island, misdemeanors are handled in the District Courts and felonies are handled in the County Courts. In New York City, misdemeanors are handled in the Criminal Courts and felonies are handled in the Supreme Courts.

In a DWI case, will I lose my car and my license?

If you refuse to blow in the breathalyzer, your license will be immediately suspended and subsequently revoked for one year with no access to a conditional license. If you blow in the breathalyzer, your license will be suspended for the first 30 days of the case, and then you will have access to a conditional license. This license allows driving to and from work, while working if necessary, to and from the doctor for you or a family member, to and from school, to and from anything related to your court case including court dates, law office meetings, probation, community service, therapy programs, etc. In addition, it allows a certain window of time for running errands. License sanctions at the conclusion of the case depend on the outcome of the case. However, it is overwhelmingly likely that once you get the pre-conviction conditional license, your driving privilege will continue uninterrupted even after the conclusion of your case. Depending upon the outcome of the case, an ignition interlock device may be required to be installed in your vehicle. This is essentially a breathalyzer which must be blown into before the key will be able to be turned in the ignition. If alcohol is detected in your breath, the ignition will not function. This may be standard equipment in all cars someday, but for now it is part of the driver’s license sanction in many DWI cases. Vehicle seizures are a part of many DWI cases. In many cases, return of the vehicle can be negotiated with the County Attorney’s Office. In some, the County will oppose return of the vehicle, and your lawyer has certain remedies he can pursue. In some cases, the vehicle can be returned during the pendency of the case upon the posting of a bond. Then the issue of the ultimate fate of the vehicle can be addressed upon the conclusion of the case.

How should I choose a lawyer?

First and foremost, you should look for experience. This is the most important event in your life thus far. You should have a lawyer with vast experience in the court where your case is heard. He should have had numerous dealings in the past with the prosecutors and judges in that court to insure he knows best how to present your case. Your lawyer should be accessible to you. He should have a knowledgeable assistant who is also accessible to you and who can provide you with important information for those times when your lawyer is not available. Your lawyer should be an excellent communicator and should express views, ideas, and advice clearly and concisely. If he does that in meetings with you, you can be sure he will also do that when negotiating with the District Attorney and the judge in your case. Your lawyer should show confidence in that of which he speaks. Thorough knowledge of a subject is what gives someone great confidence in what he is saying. Legal fees are of course a factor. You should understand the importance of this event in your life, and be prepared to pay legal fees accordingly. Fees should be reasonable under the circumstances, but don’t make this important decision based solely upon the lowest legal fee. Pay what you can reasonably afford to pay. Consider all the factors discussed herein, especially the importance of experience.

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