Frequently Asked Questions of Our Criminal Defense Lawyers
Criminal Defense Legal Questions
- What should I expect from a good criminal defense lawyer?
- What happens after a person is arrested?
- Does a person have to speak to the police after arrested?
- What is a clerk magistrate hearing?
- What is an arraignment?
- What is the process after criminal charges are filed in court?
- What is a pretrial conference or pretrial hearing in a criminal case?
- If the person who called the police or who put the criminal charges does not want to go to court or continue with the case, will the charges be taken away?
- What is the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor?
- What is the difference between a State criminal charge and a Federal criminal charge?
- What is vacating a conviction?
- How do you get a conviction vacated?
- Can vacating a conviction help my immigration case?
- I have been told that there is a warrant for my arrest. What should I do?
- Can a Warrant be removed?
- If I am not a US citizen (undocumented immigrant or an immigrant with a visa or US legal Permanent Resident), what will happen with my immigration status if I am arrested?
- How do I bail someone out?
- If I am released on bail do I have to return to court?
- How do I get the bail money back?
- Can criminal charges be sealed in Massachusetts?
- Why should I hire an experienced Massachusetts/New Hampshire criminal defense attorney, if I have been charged with a crime in Massachusetts or New Hampshire?
- Can I change criminal defense lawyers if I am unhappy with the one representing me?
- If I plan on pleading guilty, do I still need a lawyer?
- If I get offered a plea bargain, should I take it?
- How much does it cost to hire a criminal defense lawyer in Massachusetts or New Hampshire?
- Should I represent myself in a criminal case?
- Are lawyer results guaranteed?
Criminal Defense & Immigration
Answers by Our Boston Criminal Defense Attorneys to Criminal Defense Legal Questions
1. What should I expect from a good criminal defense lawyer?
At FitzGerald Law Company, we practice criminal defense in the State and Federal courts in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Florida, and have defended a wide variety of criminal charges. We are seasoned litigators and our negotiation skills reflect our vast experience.
In addition, you should expect help with alternative scenario planning, evaluation of your options and risk assessment. This means that the attorney will listen objectively to your situation and that he/she will help you understand the possible scenarios, evaluate the pros and cons of the available legal options, properly assesses the risks involved, and communicate clearly with you as to what will be the best course of action. You should expect that the communication be open and timely, that copies of all records and all the filings produced by the attorney and the government on your case will be provided promptly, and that your calls get returned in a reasonable time frame. Information about the proceedings and possible outcomes must be provided in a timely manner so that you have time to prepare for the outcomes.
You should expect that communications with your attorney will be kept confidential and that your attorney make you comfortable and not judge you when you give him information. Theses communication and case management practices are engrained in FitzGerald Law Company’s internal processes and procedures, so we are proud to be able to provide the highest level of professional service to our clients in a consistent manner.
Finally, you should expect that your attorney will be creative and effective, so that he/she is able to come up with a proper resolution of your case. At FitzGerald Law Company we are known for our creativity and for the development of innovative ways to resolve criminal, immigration and personal injury cases for our clients.
2. What happens after a person is arrested?
Depending upon the jurisdiction, if the authorities intend to detain an individual, the person may have a right to have their detention reviewed by a judicial official.
Generally, the police will file a criminal complaint in court and the individual will be required to appear before that court. During the arrest procedure, officers may also seize property, records, and/or materials as evidence.
3. Does a person have to speak to the police after they have been arrested?
4. What is a clerk magistrate hearing?
The individual being accused of the crime may appear and present evidence that the criminal charge should not be issued against him.
In Massachusetts not only the police, but also individuals can request that a criminal charge be filed against a person who is believed has committed a crime by petitioning for a clerk magistrate hearing at the District Court. Clerk magistrate hearings are a critical part of the criminal process in Massachusetts, especially for a person who is being accused of a crime. It is an opportunity for them to hear and review the accusations being made against them and to respond to those accusations before a formal criminal charge is filed.
It is critical if you are involved in a clerk magistrate hearing, that you get the assistance of a qualified and experienced attorney to represent you in these proceedings, as resolving the case at this level can save time, money and anxiety.
5. What is an arraignment?
The prosecutors can ask the court to enter an order of detention or in some cases, restrictions on the person’s freedoms if they are released. The arraignment happens after a criminal complaint is filed by the police, after an individual is arrested and charged or a clerk magistrate approves an application for a criminal complaint after a clerk magistrate hearing.
6. What is the process after criminal charges are filed in court?
In Massachusetts, while the law provides for a presumption of release without conditions, the prosecutors are permitted to request that restrictions be placed on the defendant. These include, payment of a bail/bond (an amount of money that must be posted to secure that the defendant will return to court), a “stay away order” (an order that says the defendant cannot go to the location where the crime allegedly occurred or to have contact with the alleged victims or other similar limitations), and finally, that if the defendant is charged with another criminal offence during the time in which the case is open, he/she will be held in custody for up to 60 days. An arraignment is an extremely important event in most cases because the conditions of release often determine how effectively an individual can defend his/her case (i.e. have access to therapy or treatment, ability to maintain employment and support family, greater flexibility to meet with his/her attorney and prepare for hearings, etc.) It is therefore recommended that you obtain the services of an attorney prior to the arraignment whenever possible.
In Massachusetts, the court will schedule an arraignment generally followed by a pretrial conference or pretrial hearing. The court will then schedule hearings on any relevant motions and if the case is not resolved, it will schedule a trial before either a judge or a jury.
7. What is a pretrial conference or pretrial hearing in a criminal case?
In Massachusetts a pretrial conference report is submitted to the court that outlines the procedures that the lawyers are going to engage in for the case. For example, the report will identify what type of motions will be filed, whether there are agreements on factual issues, what type of evidence will be presented and the number of witnesses that will be called to testify, and whether the case will be heard by a judge or a jury.
8. If the person who called the police or who put the criminal charges does not want to go to court or continue with the case, will the charges be taken away?
The determination to dismiss a criminal charge rests with the prosecution or in certain circumstances the judge, not with a witness. In many counties in Massachusetts, the Offices of the District Attorneys/Prosecutors have policies against dismissing charges, particularly related to domestic violence, merely because a witness states that they do not want to testify.
9. What is the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor?
On the other hand, a felony is a more serious criminal offense. In Massachusetts a felony is punishable by a state prison sentence, even if a state prison sentence is not ordered. Under the federal law a felony is an offense that is punishable by a sentence of a year or more of incarceration.
Under immigration law, there is a separate definition for a felony, specifically, an “aggravated felony”. This definition set forth in Section 101(a)(43) of the Immigration & Nationality Act, may include charges that would be misdemeanors under the applicable state law.
10. What is the difference between a State criminal charge and a Federal criminal charge?
11. What is vacating a conviction?
12. How do you get a conviction vacated?
13. Can vacating a conviction help my immigration case?
14. I have been told that there is a warrant for my arrest. What should I do?
15. Can a Warrant be removed?
A warrant may also be issued, after a criminal proceeding has been initiated if the individual has not complied with an order of the court; for example, attending a hearing, paying a fine, or properly completing conditions of probation.
In very rare circumstances, an individual may have a warrant removed without his appearance before the court, for example, if a warrant was issued because an individual did not comply with the court’s order of attending a rehabilitation class, and the attorney can prove that the individual properly attended the class, then the court may remove the warrant without requiring the individual to appear.
16. If I am not a US citizen (I am an undocumented immigrant, an immigrant with a visa, legal Permanent Residency or who has overstayed a visa), what will happen with my immigration status if I am arrested?
In general, all criminal charges will have a direct impact on a non-citizen, even a legal permanent resident. Also, the more serious the alleged criminal offence is the more serious the impact will be. It is critical for a non US citizen/immigrant to obtain representation from an attorney that has substantial experience in both criminal and immigration law.
17. How do I bail someone out?
Generally an individual may pay the bail (post the bond) in the office of the court during regular business hours.
In the alternative, bail or bond may be posted at the detention facility where the detained individual is being held at specific times and hours. Bail or bond may be paid in cash, by pledging a property, by certified bank check, and in some states by purchasing a Surety (an insurance policy from a licensed bond company).
18. If I am released on bail do I have to return to court?
19. How do I get the bail money back?
20. Can criminal charges be sealed in Massachusetts?
21. Why should I hire an experienced Massachusetts/New Hampshire criminal defense attorney, if I have been charged with a crime in Massachusetts or New Hampshire?
22. Can I change criminal defense lawyers if I am unhappy with the one representing me?
It is important that the attorney understands your case and your individual circumstances as well as the law and procedures which your case involves, for example, if you are an immigrant or a non-US citizen it is critical that the attorney have a strong understanding of the immigration law as well as criminal law.
It is important that you feel comfortable and confident with the attorney that is representing you and that you understand the strategy that he is following, so that you build the necessary trust to follow your attorney’s instructions and recommendations. In our experience, a large part of the success in most legal proceedings depends on the client following such attorney instructions.
23. If I plan on pleading guilty, do I still need a lawyer?
24. If I get offered a plea bargain, should I take it?
25. How much does it cost to hire a criminal defense lawyer in Massachusetts or New Hampshire?
In our firm, we will review the initial documentation or information about the criminal charges in order to determine what the appropriate legal fee should be.