A misdemeanor offense typically refers to a charge that may result in a criminal fine and a prison sentence of up to one full year. However, the definition of specific misdemeanor crimes will often vary by state and every state may have their own classification system (e.g., Class 1 or A misdemeanor). Thus, if convicted, misdemeanor offenses can also lead to various consequences.
The first step you should take in preparing a strong misdemeanor defense case is to hire a criminal attorney. A criminal attorney can help you navigate the criminal justice system, can perform legal research to find out whether there are any defenses available, and can provide the most effective form of representation in court. They can also inform you of your legal rights and will know when those rights have been violated by another party.
Regardless of whether you decide to hire a lawyer or not, you will need to gather evidence that could potentially support and/or hurt your case. Start by gathering legal documents related to the current misdemeanor charges and collecting evidence that may help you build a strong defense. These include videos, e-mails, photos, and any other items that prove you did not commit the crime.
Additionally, you should also consider what defenses may apply. For instance, if you were forced to commit a crime because you were coerced by a third party, then this may qualify as a strong defense against the charges.
While a lawyer is the best resource to use when determining whether there are any defenses you can raise and will be able to provide the legal names of those defenses, you can still help them and yourself by writing down the reasons why you did not commit the crime or why you should not be charged for committing it.
Finally, if you do choose to represent yourself, you should make sure to review the relevant misdemeanor laws in your state, the rules of your local criminal court, and the procedural requirements for the case. Simply, knowing this information and following the proper instructions can help strengthen your misdemeanor defense case.
What Type of Documents and Questions Should I Bring to My Criminal Attorney?
There are many types of documents that a person should bring with them when meeting with their criminal attorney. Although these documents can vary depending on the facts of the person’s case, the following is a list of generally important items:
- Documents related to the current misdemeanor case (e.g., arrest warrant, search warrant, arraignment papers, notice to appear, etc.);
- Documents related to a prior criminal case (e.g., convictions, arrests, rap sheet, etc.);
- Evidence that could clear the misdemeanor charges, such as photos or texts that give the defendant an alibi, or an eyewitness;
- A list of witnesses and their contact information; and
- Any other documents that could help defend against the misdemeanor charges.
In addition, a person should also prepare a list of questions that they may have for their criminal attorney. For instance, if they do not understand the charges against them or they want to know more about the possible consequences they can face if they are convicted, then the meeting is the time to ask their attorney about any case-related concerns that are on their mind.
Alternatively, if the person has not hired a criminal attorney yet and the meeting was scheduled for the purposes of seeing whether they were the right fit, then they should be prepared to ask questions about the services that the criminal attorney offers.
For example, the person should ask how the attorney intends to bill them for their services, what defensive strategies they will use in the case, and how often they win similar types of misdemeanor cases.
What Makes a Strong or Weak Misdemeanor Defense Case?
Generally speaking, the most important factor in criminal cases is the strength of the evidence. This will usually dictate how difficult it will be to defend against the charges. For example, if the prosecutor has barely any evidence, has evidence that is severely corrupted, or has an overall weak case, then it will be much easier for the defendant to prove that they are either innocent or do not deserve the consequences associated with the offense.
On the other hand, if the defendant does not have strong evidence or does not have an adequate defense to raise against the charges, then this may strengthen the prosecutor’s case and make it easier for them to convict the defendant. Thus, how strong or weak a particular misdemeanor case is may be determined by the types of evidence and strategies used by each side.
Another factor that may affect the strength of a defendant’s case is whether they are a repeat offender or not. Repeat offenders typically receive harsher penalties and may have a harder time proving that they are innocent; especially, if they are on trial for committing the same or a similar crime.
One last factor that can impact a defendant’s case is whether they hire a criminal attorney, and if so, that attorney’s experience in handling similar misdemeanor cases. It is generally recommended that criminal defendants retain the services of a lawyer to represent them in court (as opposed to representing themselves). Although it is not required, an attorney will know which defenses to raise and what rights a criminal defendant has under the law.
What Types of Misdemeanor Defense Cases Benefit the Most from an Attorney’s Help?
There are several types of defenses that an individual might be able to raise against misdemeanor charges. However, some of these defenses may be more effective when the individual’s attorney is presenting them. For instance, a defendant can benefit the most from an attorney arguing on their behalf when the defense involves a violation of their constitutional rights.
As an example, if the police performed an improper search or seizure to obtain evidence, then the defendant’s attorney can explain how their actions violated the defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights.
Another type of misdemeanor defense where it may be more effective to have an attorney argue it is when it is considered an affirmative defense. An affirmative defense is basically a reason that the defendant provides which explains why the charges should be dropped. Unlike most portions of a criminal case, a defendant who raises an affirmative defense will have to prove the set of facts or elements for that specific affirmative defense.
Some misdemeanor defenses that may qualify as an affirmative defense include entrapment, insanity, necessity, duress, and self-defense. Thus, if the defendant is charged with a misdemeanor, but can prove they were under duress at the time they committed the crime, then they may be able to have the charges dropped or their penalties reduced.
When Do I Need a Misdemeanor Defense Attorney?
The laws and consequences associated with misdemeanor offenses will often vary from state to state. Thus, you may need a criminal attorney if you do not understand the misdemeanor laws in your state or need help with the process of defending yourself against misdemeanor charges.
You should also strongly consider hiring a misdemeanor defense attorney when one or more of the following reasons applies to your situation:
- If you need to appear in court;
- If you are thinking about pleading guilty to the charges;
- If you do not understand your rights under the law;
- If you are a repeat offender;
- If you need assistance with drafting legal documents pertaining to your case; and/or
- If you believe that the charges should be dropped or your penalties should be reduced.
One other scenario for which you may want to hire a misdemeanor defense attorney is when the crime you are charged with is designated as a wobbler offense in your state. Briefly, a wobbler offense is a crime that can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony.
Depending on the facts of your case, this may increase your chances of receiving a serious punishment if you are convicted. Thus, having an attorney to represent you can be useful in such a scenario.