Q: The police are investigating me and have asked me to come in and give a statement. Should I go in and just tell them my side of the story?
A: You should never talk to the police without consulting with an attorney first. The police are investigating you, which means they are trying to build a case and have you arrested. Without an attorney on your side, you are no match against an experienced detective who has attended courses on how to extract confessions and also is permitted to lie to you during questioning. The police may try to talk you into confessing by saying “If you tell me what happened, I’ll put in a good word for you at the DA’s Office.” The detective is under no obligation to actually “put in a good word for you” and even if she does, the prosecutor is under no obligation to help you out and certainly no judge is bound by any such agreement when you are sentenced.
Q: I have already been arrested and charged with a minor crime. Do I really need a lawyer if I just want to plead guilty and get it over with?
A: You should never plead guilty, even to what may appear to be a minor offense, without having an experienced criminal defense attorney review your case. Even petty offenses such as minor in possession of alcohol, misdemeanor drug possession and driving on a suspended license can carry jail time. A drug conviction of any kind will bar you from receiving federal financial aid and will have a lifetime impact on your ability to pass a background check, obtain a professional license or get a good job. An experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to review your case and present legal defenses which you may be unaware. At the very least your attorney can negotiate with the officer or prosecutor for a reduced charge or sentence and may be able to persuade the judge to be as lenient as possible.
Q: I was asleep in my car when the police woke me up and arrested me for DWI. A friend told me I’m guilty because I had the keys inside the car. Should I even bother fighting my charges?
A: Yes! Up until a couple of years ago it was true in New Mexico that if had your keys with you and were in your car while drunk, you were most likely guilty of DWI. The New Mexico Supreme Court changed the law recently and now these cases are much tougher for the prosecutor to convict. Your attorney will be able to present all of the surrounding circumstances to the judge or jury and your chances of a dismissal or “not guilty” verdict are much better than they were just a few years ago.
Q: I was not given Miranda warnings when I was arrested. Does that mean my case will be dismissed?
A: Not necessarily. Miranda warnings (advising suspects of the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney) are an important safeguard to protect citizens from the police. Unfortunately TV has made it appear that Miranda must be read to anyone whenever the handcuffs go on. In reality, suspects are only entitled to Miranda warnings when they 1) are in police custody; and 2) when the police are conducting an interrogation. They do not apply to most DWI investigations, as most of the questioning takes place at the roadside prior to arrest. However, even though every officer receives extensive training on Miranda, violations are common. If the police question you after you are in their custody (whether handcuffs are on or not), they may be in violation of your rights. The penalty to the police and prosecutor is that any statements you made in violation of Miranda will be “suppressed” – meaning the statements cannot be used against you in court under most circumstances. An experienced criminal defense attorney can review all of the evidence and file a motion to keep your statements out of court.
Q: How much do you charge?
A: Every case contains unique circumstances and facts, so it is impossible to quote a fee without getting to know you and your case. My fee takes into consideration the complexities of your case and is based upon my experience, reputation, knowledge and skill. No legal work will be performed until a fee agreement is signed by you and me.
Q: Do you have a payment plan?
A: I do allow my fee to be spread out over monthly or weekly payments depending on the case.
Q: How do I hire you?
A: The first step is to call right now for an initial consultation. The longer you wait to contact an attorney, the more difficult it will be to help with your legal problem. When you come to your appointment, please bring any and all paperwork you have received regarding your case. After you and I have discussed your case, I will let you know what my fee will be. Once a fee agreement is signed and an initial retainer paid, I will immediately notify the court, the prosecutor and/or the investigating officer that I represent you and that all communication about your case must come through me. I will also begin subpoenaing reports, recordings, documents and other evidence to be used in building your defense.