Criminal Defendants on Trial – In Jail and Out on Bond

October 7, 2009 by Maricopa County Court  
Filed under Criminal Court, bail bonds

By Ira Still –

You have a constitutional right to silence. This is found in the 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Never give a written or verbal statement to the police. Their job is to get you talking. If you volunteer to speak to anyone, you waive your right to silence and what you say to them will be admitted into evidence in front of the jury at trial.

What Should I Do While in Jail?

When you get to the jail everyone in there will ask you one question, “What are you in for?” Do not talk to them about the facts of your case. The other inmates are facing their own serious charges. If you talk to them, they may inform the prosecutor and become a witness against you. That might earn them probation for informing against you. That is known as “substantial assistance.”

Let me tell you a story about Andrew who lost his case because of jail inmates who sought to perform substantial assistance just to benefit themselves. Andrew was arrested for premeditated murder. While in the county jail, two inmates tried to get him talking about his case after they saw the story on the local T.V and read articles in the newspaper. Unfortunately, Andrew discussed his case with them. Of course, the inmates contacted the State Attorney’s Office. Although Andrew did not confess to them, they added to what he had said dramatizing it to sound as if he had admitted guilt.

Your discussions over the jail phone can be overheard by the other inmates. Be careful not to talk to your family or friends about the facts of your case. The State is going to reward the other inmates for what they hear you say. In addition, you do not want to make your family and friends witnesses against you.

What is a Bond?

Within 24 hours of your arrest you must be brought before a Magistrate to determine, among other things, what will be the terms of your pretrial release. The old English term for this is being admitted to bail. There are some very serious offenses listed in the statutes that do not permit an accused to be admitted to bail without a special hearing in front of the trial court judge. For most offenses, however, you will be admitted to bail and then you can obtain release while your case proceeds through the courts. Here are some of the different forms of release:

Pre-Trial Release: If this is your first offense and you have strong ties to the community you may be enrolled in this program. It does not require money but you may have an ankle monitor requiring you to stay at home when you are not at your employment. You might have no monitor but have to phone in to the office each day or each week for an interview. You might have to go to the office before attending court hearings.

Signature Bond: This is used often in the federal courts but less often in state courts. With this, you would sign a promissory note for an amount such as $100,000. If you fail to appear, the court can automatically get your money and property up to that amount. When the case is fully over, this bond is simply released. There is no bondsman hence no fee for his services.

Property Bond: This (too) is used more often in the federal courts but less often in state courts. With this, you or a family member would put their real estate up with the court as a form of bond. There is no bondsman fee for this. If you fail to show up for court, that person automatically loses their house or land. However if you do appear for all your court dates, when the case is fully over, this bond is simply released. There is no bondsman hence no fee for his services.

Cash Bond: The court sets an amount of money sufficient to assure that you will appear in court for each hearing. Your family can deposit the full amount of cash to secure your release. When your case is fully over, they get 100% of their cash back. There are no handling fees. If you don’t show up, the cash bond is taken by the State.

Bail Bondsman: A surety bondsman, who is in the business of writing bonds and assuring the court that if you don’t’ show up for court they will hunt you down and bring you in [dead or alive, by the way], meets with your family and sets up the bond for you. He will charge 10% of the bond amount as his fee for these services. In federal court he charges 15% as his fee. He also requires security on the balance such as a lien on a house, title to a car, expensive jewelry, or a cash deposit. If you fail to show up, this secured property is forfeited. If you do show up, when your case is fully over your family gets the security back but they do not get the 10% or 15% fee back. That is kept by the bondsman. Most state courts seem to prefer the cash bond or the use of a bail bondsman.

How Do I Get a Bond?

Provided your offense is bondable by statute, the jail will set the bond from the standardized amount list when you are booked. Your family can then post the cash bond or go through a bail bondsman to get you out within hours. Have your family contact an attorney to help them arrange for the bond.

While out on bond, make sure you don’t get into any further trouble with the law while your case is pending. If you have driver license problems correct them or don’t drive. Read and follow the terms of the bond (no alcohol or firearms, etc.). Be on time and don’t miss any court hearings or you could be arrested. If you get arrested on another charge, the State will revoke your bond and hold you in jail until your trial is completed.

Whether you are in jail or out on bond, you should use this time to take stock of your life. There is an old adage that goes like this: “If you want your life to change, you have to change.” Be ready to make new and better habits. Be ready to make new and better friends. Do it now! Find a strong church or synagogue with groups of people your own age. Get involved. Be ready to face the judge as a new person.

The day of your jury trial is approaching fast. So, hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Let the Defense Team investigate the facts and evidence and prepare your case for your best success.

For more helpful information on success strategies for a person charged with a crime, contact

Ira Still, Esquire

Web: http://www.istilldefendliberty.com

Info Blog: http://istilldefendliberty.blogspot.com

Ira Still has been a criminal defense trial lawyer in Florida for over 30 years. He successfully represents his clients on all crimes and in all courts. Ira has had many, many jury trials and is well known in Miami and Ft. Lauderdale as a very successful trial and appellate lawyer. He has argued death penalty collateral appeals in the Florida Supreme Court and in various District Courts of Appeal. Ira has tried high profile cases such as police shooting a person and persons charged with shooting police; capital murder and capital sexual battery; violent crimes; drug trafficking; and virtually every other criminal charge. Ira Still is also an author, speaker, teacher, mentor and coach.

© 2009 Law Offices of Ira Still

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Ira_Still

Criminal Defendants on Trial – The Parties, Charges, Arraignment and Pleas

October 6, 2009 by Maricopa County Court  
Filed under Criminal Court

By Ira Still –

The Parties

The defendant is the accused person against whom the criminal charges have been brought. The Defense team is headed by the attorney and may include an investigator, paralegal and other support personnel who work at the lawyer’s direction to develop the particular case strategy.

The plaintiff is the other party to the court case. This is the party who has lodged the charges against the defendant and commenced the criminal court case. This party  appears on the pleadings as the State of … This party is represented by the prosecuting authority which may be referred to by many names such as the State, State Attorney, District Attorney or D.A. [in some states], Prosecutor, Prosecution or Prosecuting Attorney.  The State Legislature defines and writes the criminal laws that apply to that state. When these laws are broken, it is the State that has been injured. Therefore, it is the State that is the plaintiff in the case. It is the State that prosecutes the defendant for breaking its law.

The Charges

Most state cases are commenced by drafting and filing an Information, which is a written allegation that begins the case in court.   The information is a sworn complaint by the State Attorney who is charging the commission of a criminal offense against the laws of the State that has jurisdiction.  The Informationdeclares that the State Attorney brings the charge.

An offense that may be punished by death [i.e. capital murder] must be prosecuted by Indictment. The state attorney is required to present sufficient evidence to the grand jury that (1) a crime was committed; and (2) the defendant is the one who committed that crime. If the grand jury believes there is sufficient evidence it will return an indictment, which is a plain and concise statement of the charge. It is the grand jury that brings the charge with an indictment. Where there is an Indictment there will not be an Information.

In federal court, the plaintiff is called the “government” and this refers to the United States Government which is prosecuting the case.  It is the United States Legislature that enacts the federal criminal laws. It is the United States Attorney General that is the prosecution. In federal court, cases go to the grand jury and are begun with an Indictment.

Arraignment

Under most circumstances, the defendant’s first time in court will be for the Arraignment. An arraignment must be conducted in open court unless the Defense lawyer files a Written Plea of Not Guilty. The advantage of filing a written plea is that this court appearance can be avoided saving the defendant time and money. This pleading waives the formal reading of the Indictment or Information in open court. If the Arraignment does take place formally in open court, then the judge or the clerk or the prosecutor will read the formal charges out loud. The defendant will be required to enter his/her plea to these charges at that time. A plea of guilty means the defendant does not want to proceed to trial. A plea of not guilty means the defendant wants to proceed to trial.   When the defendant pleads not guilty the court will give the Defense a reasonable time to prepare for the jury trial.

If the defendant is not yet represented by counsel when the Arraignment is held, the court will advise the defendant of his/her constitutional right to counsel under the 6th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The court will give the defendant an opportunity to obtain counsel or apply for court-appointed counsel if they qualify as indigent.

The 6th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States contains the trial rights such as a speedy and public trial; an impartial jury; to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted by the witnesses against them; to be able to subpoena their own witnesses and to have the effective assistance of counsel at all crucial stages of the prosecution. When the defendant pleads not guilty, all of the trial rights immediately attach and remain until the trial jury reaches its verdict.

Entering the Plea

A defendant may plead not guilty, guilty, or where the court permits nolo contendere. The third option arises out of common law in situations where a plea to a criminal charge might have consequences in a civil suit based upon the same wrongful act. E.g. if the state charges the defendant with discharging a firearm in public and a civil plaintiff wants to sue for the projectile killing his dog, the plea of nolo contendere would take care of the criminal case but not summarily act as an admission of negligence in the civil case at the same time. Some courts may also permit a plea in my best interest. This means “I just want to get the case over with but I am not admitting guilt.” Every alternative plea that completes the case without a trial is taken by the law to mean guilty.

Where a defendant refuses to speak (or stands mute) the court will enter a not guilty plea on the record. A plea of not guilty is a denial of every material allegation in the indictment or information. At this stage the court will set a trial date.

A defendant may initially enter a plea of not guilty.  Only the defendant knows his/her true culpability in the matter.  He/She often wants the opportunity to “make a deal” [a plea bargain] to dispose of the case early on. However, this stage is rarely a strong bargaining position for the defendant. The State will most likely offer a maximum penalty, if anything at all. As the case progresses and the evidence is better understood, the defendant could move into a stronger bargaining position.

After discovering what the State’s evidence [e.g. the testimony of its witnesses; and the real or physical evidence of the case] will show at trial and evaluating the probable trial results, the attorney may recommend that the defendant consider a change of plea. The plea bargaining process is a highly specialized area of expertise requiring a seasoned and skilled trial attorney to achieve the best results.

The trial court has discretion to permit a change of plea and wrap the case up without a trial. This could be based upon an agreement with the prosecutor called a negotiated plea bargain or it could be an open plea to the court.  When considering a possible change of plea, the defendant must fully understand all of the terms and ramifications. There must be a factual basis for the plea.  The defendant must understand the significance of the change of plea.  The change of plea must be 100% voluntary on the part of the defendant before the court will accept the change of plea.

Defer to the advice of the Defense Attorney who has years of experience in these matters and will professionally guide his client as he/she endeavors to understand court procedureof the parties, charges, arraignment and pleas.

For more helpful information on success strategies for a person charged with a crime, contact:

Ira Still, Esquire

Web: http://www.istilldefendliberty.com

Info Blog: http://istilldefendliberty.blogspot.com

Ira Still has been a criminal defense trial lawyer in Florida for over 30 years. He successfully represents his clients on all crimes and in all courts. Ira has had many, many jury trials and is well known in Miami and Ft. Lauderdale as a very successful trial and appellate lawyer. He has argued death penalty collateral appeals in the Florida Supreme Court and in various District Courts of Appeal. Ira has tried high profile cases such as police shooting a person and persons charged with shooting police; capital murder and capital sexual battery; violent crimes; drug trafficking; and virtually every other criminal charge.

Ira Still is also an author, speaker, teacher, mentor and coach.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Ira_Still

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