Common Questions About Criminal Defense Cases
Much of what happens to you next depends on several factors. First, it depends on what county you were arrested in. In every county in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, except Philadelphia, you are first entitled to a preliminary hearing if you are charged with a misdemeanor or felony charge.
In many counties, the first hearing is in front of a District Justice where the police officer or assigned Detective would testify against you. In Philadelphia, preliminary hearings are only allotted to those charged with felony charges. The Commonwealth is always represented by the District Attorney's Office at that hearing. In some cases, especially if you are charged with a summary or traffic offense your case will be disposed of at the District Justice level.
Paying for an attorney generally assures you that you will have more individualized attention. Furthermore, it means that at your hearing dates, your case will be called in Court before other cases, and you will not have to be in court longer than necessary.
It also means that your appearance can be waived for certain hearings so that you do not have to come to court at all. At Laguzzi Law, we are committed to ensuring that clients do not waste their time when it can be avoided in a sometimes lengthy criminal justice system.
Simply speaking to an attorney, even if you get advice from that person, does not mean that the attorney now represents you. Attorneys always require an initial retainer fee, along with an agreement that must be signed by the client, or an agent of the client. The retainer agreement lays out the duties of the attorney and the extent of the attorney's representation of the client.
It is upon receipt of the signed agreement and the initial fee that the actual representation commences. It is for this reason that attorneys usually will not begin work on any case until the agreement is signed by the client.
You should call the firm to ask for an initial consultation or appointment. The attorney's schedule will dictate when they can schedule to see you. At Laguzzi Law, we understand the importance of meeting with an attorney immediately to ensure you understand your rights and help you navigate a process that can be lengthy and difficult to understand. Therefore, we strive to schedule meetings within 48 hours of the initial call.
At Laguzzi Law, our fees are set fairly and competitively. We set our fees to commiserate with those within the general legal community. The fee is set on experience and specialty in the field, knowledge of Judges' individual practices, and overall work ethic. We use private investigators when necessary and counsel clients as to any and all necessary trial expenses. It is imperative to us that clients understand what is, and what is not, important for trial.
Choosing the right lawyer has much more to do with experience, know-how, professional reputation, and confidence level than with a fee. Although expense is always a consideration, some lawyers charge less because they have a "volume" practice. This means that they have more clients all paying less money. Some lawyers are simply trying to compete and build up their practice and so charge less to obtain more clients.
However, this may be one of the most important decisions you make, therefore, you should have an attorney that you trust. We always suggest finding a lawyer the same way you search for a doctor or counselor, it must be someone that you can talk to and who listens to you.
If the attorney is not returning your calls or answering your questions, that person may not be the best choice for you. A lawyer should be able to navigate you through the criminal justice system with a realistic expectation of what may occur. No attorney can guarantee an outcome in a criminal case, and be wary of anyone who makes promises of a win.
The old saying, “the only guarantees in life are death and taxes” holds true, especially for criminal law. Many attorneys will promise wonderful outcomes or make bold guarantees because they are simply interested in having the client hire them so they can make money.
This is wrong, both ethically and professionally. The only guarantee an attorney can make in a criminal case is that they will fight for the client. At Laguzzi Law, we do everything to ensure that the client has the best options (i.e. alternatives to trials such as diversionary programs). Ms. Laguzzi will always keep you updated and informed at every stage.
The relationship begins when the client has paid an initial retainer to the attorney and signed a retainer agreement. The agreement highlights the terms and conditions of the representation that the attorney is responsible for the client's case/hearing. It also details such things as what the retainer fee will be used for, and what additional fees the client may be responsible for in addition to the legal fee.
According to the governing rules of ethics, any communication that a client, even a potential client, has with his/her attorney is privileged. This means that even information given during an initial consultation is privileged, even if the client does not hire the attorney.
The attorney-client privilege attaches to the client, not a family member regardless of whether or not they are fulfilling the financial obligation to the attorney. The privilege is highly regarded and imperative to the practice of law. An attorney representing a defendant has an obligation to keep their client informed, but can choose not to speak to a family member to protect the confidential communication between the attorney and the client.
Most attorneys will give out public information, such as court dates and times. However, at times, the client will ask the attorney to not even provide family members with this basic information.
It is never advisable that a citizen give a written statement to the police without first consulting with an attorney. Even if you are "innocent," you should still consult with a criminal defense attorney to discuss your options and ensure that you fully understand your rights. Remember that you can always give a statement in the future, but you cannot take it back once you have given it. With our paging system, you can call the Laguzzi Law office at any time and get help if you encounter such a problem.
Sometimes the "sources" giving out information regarding an arrest warrant may not be the most accurate. If you call Laguzzi Law, we can track down the correct information. You can also have a scheduled turn-in date with a Detective and ensure that you will not be asked any questions or interrogated.
The most important thing that you can do is find and hire an attorney that you trust. The attorney can help you with your individual situation and help you decide the best course of action. When necessary, a private investigator can help prepare a case, though a client should never act as his/her own investigator. There are certain issues in criminal defense that could prejudice a case in the event it proceeds to trial. Thus, it is never advisable to proceed without speaking to counsel.
You should only decide to plea guilty after carefully reviewing the discovery in your case with your lawyer. Even if you have come to that decision, sentencing is an important hearing. In court, many judges have broad discretion in the sentences they render. This means having a well-prepared lawyer that can argue mitigation is important. In many cases, a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer can severely reduce your sentence. A well-versed lawyer can even help avoid certain collateral consequences that arise from a criminal conviction.