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If I am accused of a crime, do I need a lawyer?


Do I need a lawyer or can I work this out myself?

If you are accused or suspected of a crime, an attorney should represent you at all times.

It is unwise to attempt to negotiate directly with police or prosecutors. Among your most valuable rights is your right to remain silent. Even if you are innocent, you run the risk that accusers have convinced the authorities to believe otherwise. Without representation, potentially any action – even an innocent response – can be misinterpreted by law enforcement and make the situation worse.

There are two advantages to hiring counsel. First, counsel’s legal knowledge and experience can help you avoid making mistakes, and second, counsel’s objectivity can give an outside perspective on any strategic choice you wish to make.

I have been contacted by the police. What will happen if I admit to committing a crime?

If you admit to police that you have committed a crime, the police will most likely issue you a citation (for minor offenses) or submit a report to the local prosecutor (usually the District Attorney or City Attorney), and request that you be charged with the offense.

If you are cited or arrested for an offense, you may be taken into custody. For minor offenses, you may be released by signing a promise to appear in court. For more serious offenses, you may be required to post bail in order to be released.

You will appear in court to either fight or resolve your case. Your first court hearing will be an arraignment. At this hearing, the court will read the charges, and ask if you have hired counsel, plan to represent yourself, or request a public defender. The court will set future court dates, usually a preliminary hearing date (for felony cases) and a pretrial settlement conference (for felony or misdemeanor cases-this hearing goes by different names in different courts).

You cannot know in advance if your statement will be deemed by the authorities to be an admission or to corroborate some allegation from your accuser. For this reason, your right to have counsel when you speak to the police is among your most valuable protections.

Why does the State Bar of California certify Legal Specialists?

To help the public identify attorneys who have gained proficiency in specialized fields of law and to encourage the improvement of attorney competence in specialized fields.

What should I do if I have been contacted by the police or arrested?

If you are suspected or accused of a crime, you have the right to seek the advice of counsel. Understanding the legal system, and having a trained and experienced attorney to advocate for you can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case.

If you have not yet been charged, but police are investigating, or want to question you, you should consider hiring counsel right away. Having an attorney assist you will allow you to contact law enforcement while maintaining your own right to remain silent. You and your attorney may be able to find a strategy to avoid being charged. A skilled and experienced attorney may be able to convince the authorities that you should not be charged, or that there is defense evidence they should consider before believing your accusers.

In some financial cases, such as fraud or embezzlement, it may be possible to negotiate a civil compromise and avoid being charged with a crime. Hiring an attorney early in the investigation will increase your chances of avoiding criminal charges.

Do I need to appear in court?

If you have been cited or arrested for a crime, you have either signed a promise to appear in court, or you have posted bail, guaranteeing your appearance. Failure to appear in court is a separate crime, and a person who fails to appear as ordered can be arrested on a bench warrant.

In some circumstances, if you retain an attorney, you may not be required to personally attend all court appearances in your case. This is not always possible. If you would like to have Mr. Rose appear for you in court, you should discuss this possibility on a case-by-case basis.

What can an attorney do for me if there is a warrant out for my arrest?

If you have been charged with a crime but have not been to court or promised to appear in court, a warrant may be issued for your arrest. A warrant is an order from the court for any peace officer in the state to apprehend you and bring you to jail or before a court. Willful failure to appear in court is a separate crime under California Law. In felony cases, it can even be charged as a felony and result in a prison sentence. Returning to court promptly can show that you handled the matter responsibly, or that the failure to appear was a mistake or accident, not a willful avoidance.

Failing to deal with the situation can also lead to forfeiture of your bail, civil lawsuits from your bondsman to recover the lost bail, and most importantly, arrest at any time or place – without warning. This could occur at your work or school, in the presence of your children, or in many other inconvenient circumstances. For these reasons, hiring an attorney and returning to the court is the wisest course of action. If you learn that there is a warrant for your arrest, Mr. Rose can help you resolve the situation quickly. Arranging your bail and accompanying your lawyer to court as quickly as possible will greatly increase your chances of being released again.

An experienced criminal defense attorney can examine the court file, or contact the prosecutor to learn the reason for the warrant and determine how to best resolve it. Many bondsmen will offer you a discount on your bail bond if you have retained private counsel. If you have a warrant out for your arrest, it will not go away on its own. Hiring an attorney and arranging to return to court or to custody can greatly assist you in resolving the situation.

I am being investigated or arrested for a crime and am not a citizen. What should I do?

A non-citizen convicted of a crime may lose the right to remain in the United States. You may also be denied admission to the United States or denied naturalization.

If you are not a citizen and you are aware you may be suspected of a crime – or could be arrested in the future – you should hire an attorney as soon as possible. Given the possibility that an arrest or charge could result in removal from the United States if there is any possibility of avoiding arrest, you and your attorney should attempt to do so.

Should I represent myself in a criminal case?

No. It is extremely risky to represent yourself when you are charged with a crime. Even experienced lawyers who find themselves under suspicion usually hire a lawyer. If you choose to represent yourself, the court will specifically warn you that this is a dangerous choice.

What advantage would I have in hiring a private practice lawyer over a public defender?

Some people are not eligible to request a public defender. Public defender services are not available to people with high incomes, or for people who have not yet been arrested but believe they need an attorney to assist them during an investigation.

The decision to hire a private lawyer or to request a public defender involves many considerations. The public defender’s mission is to provide counsel to people who cannot afford private lawyers. Many excellent and dedicated defense attorneys work for the public defender or accept appointed cases as part of private practice. On the other hand, many public defender offices have a very high volume of clients, and therefore have very little time to offer each individual client.

When an accused person receives appointed counsel, administrative staff from the public defender’s office or the conflict defense panel determine the individual lawyer assigned to that client. You may not have the opportunity to select a different lawyer if you are not satisfied with this relationship.

Your criminal case may be one of the most stressful events in your life. You need to have an attorney you can personally trust. Your relationship with your lawyer must give you confidence that you are receiving the best advice and representation you can get. If you find that your public defender is not providing you the level of service and confidence you believe you need, consider hiring a private lawyer.

What does it mean that an attorney is certified by the State Bar of California?

Attorneys may advertise or identify themselves as “certified” specialists in California only if they are certified either by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization, or an organization whose certification program has been accredited by the State Bar. (Such an organization must have requirements for certification that are at least equal to those of the State Bar’s program.)

California attorneys who are certified as specialists must have taken and passed a written examination in their specialty field, demonstrated a high level of experience in the specialty field, fulfilled ongoing education requirements and been favorably evaluated by other attorneys and judges familiar with their work.

Why should I hire a Certified Criminal Law Specialist?

If you, or someone you loved, became ill, you would seek the most reputable doctor available who specialized in that particular area of medicine. If your home were damaged, you would seek the most reputable and skilled contractor to repair it. Similarly, when you are accused of a crime, you should consider hiring a lawyer whose reputation distinguishes him or her as being highly skilled and experienced in criminal law.

Why don’t other lawyers become Certified Criminal Law Specialists?

Many do not have the required experience or knowledge. Others have said that it holds them to a higher standard for their mistakes. I have heard many lawyers worry about taking and passing the exam while others simply do not wish the scrutiny of their work by the legal community, the courts, or the State Bar. In short, this is no good reason.

How can I check a lawyer’s credentials/license?

Attorneys licensed to practice in California are listed in the Member Directory of the State Bar of California’s Web site at: each attorney’s directory listing, you will find his or her contact information, dates of admission, specialist certifications, and information about any disciplinary record. Unfortunately for the potential client, there is no “official” rating system to compare criminal defense lawyers. There are, however, several places you might find information about a lawyer, which could indicate whether or not other people have had a positive experience in working with an attorney. For example, the Better Business Bureau has a rating system for businesses listed on its Web site. Other Web sites exist where consumers can provide ratings to businesses. Reading the comments on these sites may provide you some insight into the quality of an attorney’s services. If you see a negative comment, consider carefully whether the person is unhappy with the result of the case, or raises a legitimate concern about a lawyer’s professionalism. You may view Mr. Rose’s Better Business Bureau rating by clicking here.

Can I change lawyers if I am unhappy with the one representing me right now?

California law permits clients to change their attorneys and hire new attorneys as a matter of right if the case is not yet set for trial, and subject to the court’s approval if the case is set for trial. If you have lost confidence in your attorney, you should discuss your concerns with your attorney first. You may wish to bring a friend, family member, or another attorney you trust to the meeting to see if they can help you present your concerns or understand the attorney’s responses. If you still believe the relationship cannot be repaired, you should begin searching for a new lawyer sooner rather than later. Your old attorney is required by law to provide your files to your new attorney if the court approves a substitution of counsel.

Should I hire a nationwide criminal defense firm?

Use caution when considering hiring a firm that claims to have attorneys and offices in every part of the country. Some law firms that make this claim are in fact very small firms with very large marketing budgets. That marketing budget is paid for with your retainer fees. These firms hire contractors to whom they pay a very small portion of the fee you pay to the firm, and provide the attorney little or no support. Some of these firms spend as little as 15% of your retainer money on your defense.

The firms also imply that they have a “team” working on your case, or that they have experienced “Case Managers” and “Investigators” working on their staff. A Case Manager in such a firm is generally a salesperson. Some firms hire attorneys to work as Case Managers, but these employees rarely practice law or represent or advise clients. The “Investigators” are usually a firm’s telemarketing staff.

Mr. Rose personally represents every client who hires him. He does not farm out legal work. If your case would best be served by involving more than one attorney, Mr. Rose has working relationships with many other experienced lawyers and can arrange for such representation. Mr. Rose limits the number of clients he represents so that each client’s matter receives the attention it deserves.

If you would like to consider a “nationwide” firm for criminal defense, Mr. Rose recommends that you thoroughly research the firm’s reputation as you would with any other major purchase, and ask the following questions before you sign an agreement or pay any money:

Who is the attorney who will be representing me?

Where can I find independent information about the experience of this attorney?

May I meet with or speak to this attorney before I retain your firm?

What support does your firm provide to this attorney?

What does a “Case Manager” actually do to benefit my defense?

Does my “Case Manager” have any formal training in law or related fields?

How many people other than my assigned attorney will work directly on my case?

What will each of them be doing? How much of the money I pay to your firm is actually paid to my attorney and other people who work directly on my case?

If I am not satisfied with your firm, who do I have to speak to in order to get my money back? What is involved in the process?

Some experienced, effective lawyers work as subcontractors for these “nationwide” criminal defense firms. Many clients of such firms are pleased with the outcomes of their cases. Nevertheless, most of the clients of these firms could have hired the same attorneys directly for less money than they paid in this arrangement.

I got a letter in the mail from a lawyer who promises the lowest fees in town. Should I hire this attorney?

Hiring a lawyer based on the lowest price is a very risky decision. There is a certain overhead cost for providing legal services. There is a certain amount of time involved in providing legal services to each client. An attorney can only maintain a practice by charging extremely low fees if the lawyer accepts a very high volume of clients to cover the overhead, and spends very little time serving each person. If this happens, you will likely not receive the resources and attention that you believed you would obtain for your money.

Mr. Rose believes that attorney’s fees should reflect the amount of work likely to be involved in the case. When possible, he offers clients a choice between flat fees or hourly fees. He will be happy to explain the basis of his proposed fee for your case to you.

I’m considering hiring a famous “high profile” attorney who has represented celebrities. Is it worth the money?

This will depend on your personal situation and the lawyer’s experience and skills. Just because a lawyer has represented famous clients does not mean that the lawyer is right for you, or that this lawyer is better than others.

Mr. Rose has defended clients in high profile cases, and many others that did not make the news. He has defended licensed professionals, businesspersons, actors, and athletes in situations where they hoped not to receive attention. These clients often sought Mr. Rose for his experience and discretion. For many people, accusations alone-whether or not there is any supporting evidence-could devastate the clients’ careers or social positions.

If the public spotlight may fall on you-or your case-you need to hire an attorney before this happens. You also need an attorney who understands the complexities of responding to media inquiries in a way that presents your situation as positively as possible. Mr. Rose is well versed in the rules that limit pre-trial public statements by you, your family, and your counsel, and how to make public statements that provide the maximum benefit to you within those rules.

What percentage of your cases do you win?

There is no accurate way for any criminal defense lawyer to answer this question. More experienced attorneys tend to be hired by clients with more complicated or difficult matters.

For example, does the lawyer define “win” as achieving a dismissal or not guilty verdict on all charges? Does the lawyer consider a case where a client was convicted of a lesser charge or only a few of many charges a “win”?

You will see that some lawyers make claims that they “win” a high percentage of their cases. A potential client should be wary of such claims and ask the lawyer to provide specifics of any claim of “winning” a high percentage of cases. There is also no guarantee that a successful outcome in one case will lead to a successful outcome in another. When you meet with Mr. Rose, he will share with you the results of any comparable cases to yours.

What if I am arrested in California, but live permanently outside of California?

If you are arrested or cited while visiting California, it is important to hire an attorney to handle your case. The court may be willing to authorize Mr. Rose to appear on your behalf to handle your court appearances. Even if you reside out of state, you will be required to attend court appearances where there are contested issues, such as trials, preliminary hearings, and other contested
motions. Unless a court order or your agreement with your bondsman has specifically provided otherwise, you are usually free to travel while your case is pending, provided that you return to court whenever you are ordered to do so.

What process does the prosecutor/judge use to sentence me?

In California, sentencing is a function of the court, not the prosecutor. You may be sentenced if you either (a) reach a plea bargain and agree to a certain punishment or range of punishments, or (b) you are found guilty after trial. California law provides that the court must issue its sentence based on the aggravating and mitigating factors presented in the California Rules of Court.

In most cases, unless the defendant has entered a plea bargain specifying only one punishment option, or law limits the court’s power, the court has significant discretion in sentencing. Except for serious crimes where the law forbids or restricts probation, the court has the power to consider granting probation instead of sentencing a person to state prison. Even if a person is sentenced to prison, California’s Determinate Sentencing Law, in most cases, allows the court to select the time of incarceration from a set of three choices, often called the “lower”, “middle” and “upper” terms. For example, a person sentenced to prison for a single charge of rape may receive a sentence of 3, 6, or 8 years.

Even in a case where a defendant is sentenced, there is a significant difference between serving three years and serving 8 years. An experienced attorney, such as Mr. Rose, will gather as much mitigating information as possible to argue for the lower sentence for his client.

What does it mean to prove guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt”?

The standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt is a cornerstone of the American judicial system. Both the United States and California Constitutions require this level of proof in criminal trials. The standard requires that jurors demand proof from the prosecutor sufficient to leave them certain that the charges are true. In California, jurors are instructed to reach their own independent conclusion of the correct verdict and to vote not guilty if any reasonable doubt exists.

A skilled defense lawyer can use the trial, in particular, the cross-examination of prosecution witnesses and the presentation of the defense case, when appropriate, to highlight the doubts in the case, and then argue to the jurors why they should find doubt and vote for a not guilty verdict.

What is restitution?

Restitution is repayment of the financial losses suffered by a crime victim. The court is required to determine the amount of restitution owed in most criminal cases and to allow crime victims to recover their losses.

Can a jury acquit me even if I broke the law?

Jurors are not psychics-they evaluate the strength of the proof they see and the arguments from the attorneys.

In California, the jury is instructed that it can only find you guilty of a crime if the prosecutor can prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If there is a reasonable doubt as to guilt, jurors are instructed to vote not guilty. There are many cases where an experienced, skilled attorney can demonstrate to the jury that reasonable doubt exists, even where the police and prosecutor claimed to have solved the case. For example:

Where eyewitnesses claim to have identified the accused, an attorney can employ private investigators to document and re-create the viewing conditions to determine if identification is credible or to investigate if the witnesses have a motive to mislead or lie. An attorney can employ an expert witness on such issues as cross-racial misidentification.

Where the prosecution claims that forensic evidence, such as DNA, “proves” that the accusation is true, a skilled defense lawyer can utilize investigation and expert consultants to present a counter-argument: Were scientifically accepted procedures followed and adequately documented? Could other testing methods have produced a different result? Were several tests performed and then one test “cherry-picked” to “prove” the client’s guilt?

An effective and skilled criminal defense lawyer, such as Mr. Rose, will use your trial to develop evidence to argue to the jury to show the strength of the proof of the case, and will use his or her skills in jury selection to seek people who are open to looking for reasonable doubt in the case.

Can I hire Mr. Rose at an hourly rate?

Mr. Rose can offer to represent you at an hourly rate in many types of cases. Hourly rates may be beneficial to a client who has reason to believe that the case will involve a limited amount of work, or where it is not possible to know the extent of the work involved at the outset. A common situation where it is beneficial to the client to pay an hourly rate is when the client has not been charged with a crime but seeks representation because the police are conducting an investigation (this is often called a “pre-file” case because charges have not been filed). When you meet with Mr. Rose, he will discuss the various types of fee arrangements available to suit your needs.

Can I hire Mr. Rose for a flat fee for my case?

In many types of criminal cases, Mr. Rose is willing to offer you a flat fee through the conclusion of the matter or through the conclusion of a specific portion of the case. This type of arrangement is possible when the amount of work involved in representing the client can be reasonably anticipated.

When you meet with Mr. Rose, he will discuss the possibility of a flat fee for your case.

If you, or someone you know in California, needs the advice or assistance of an experienced Los Angeles area
criminal law attorney, please call Alec Rose today at (310) 905-8453