Criminal Defense FAQ
Few situations are as confusing and scary as when you are accused of committing a crime. You may have many questions – and we at Williams & Associates have answers.
Below are answers to our most frequently asked criminal defense questions. Every case is unique, so for answers to questions you have about your specific case, please schedule a consultation with our attorneys. Call 231-735-8575 or send us an email to get started with a free initial consultation.
Why do I need a criminal defense attorney?
No matter the circumstances, you should always consult a criminal defense lawyer about your case. One criminal charge – whether it’s operating while intoxicated (OWI) or a sex crime – will impact the rest of your life. Even when you are guilty of a crime, prosecutors will often try to make your charges more severe, resulting in an outcome much worse than you may have been expecting. The only way to be sure that your rights are protected and that you are treated fairly is to have an experienced criminal defense attorney by your side.
What’s the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony?
Crimes are designated as misdemeanors or felonies based on their severity. Less serious crimes, like shoplifting, are typically misdemeanors and result in fines and up to a year in jail. Meanwhile, more serious crimes have the potential to be felonies, which could result in much larger fines and more years in prison. Some crimes, like theft, OWI and some drug offenses, could be classified as either misdemeanors or felonies, depending on the situation.
Are police allowed to search my home or vehicle?
Police are only allowed to search your property if they have probable cause or a warrant, or if you give them permission.
Probable cause can be difficult to prove. Ultimately, probable cause exists when there is enough evidence for a reasonable police officer to determine that a crime occurred. If a police officer heard gunshots in your residence, they may have probable cause to enter your property.
Police can be tricky, however. Many ask permission to enter your property immediately, and once they are inside, anything that is visible (such as drugs or other illegal items) may be used as probable cause to initiate a search.
Likewise, police may intimidate you into allowing them to perform a search. Always remember your right to decline this search until they have a warrant. If they are asking for permission, that means they do not have probable cause to enter without it.
What should I do when I’m pulled over for OWI?
First and foremost, always be respectful to the officer. If you make any wrong moves or act in a disrespectful way, your case may be made worse.
Secondly, know your rights. You have the right to remain silent, and you have the right to decline a search of your vehicle unless the officer has probable cause. You also have the right to an attorney, and you should call a criminal defense lawyer as early as you can to be sure that no one infringes upon your rights.
What’s the difference between probation and parole?
Probation and parole are similar but slightly different. Under the right circumstances, both can be used to shorten or eliminate your time in jail or prison. Both also take place outside of the prison system but are still under heavy supervision by an officer.
Probation typically is a substitute for jail or prison. You serve your sentence outside of prison, but you must adhere to strict rules and regulations and be supervised by a probation officer.
Parole, on the other hand, is an early release from prison under similar rules as those for probation. You still serve some time in jail or prison, and, depending on your behavior, you may become eligible for early release under parole.