Other Criminal Offenses and How Things Work
Beyond Drunk Driving and Drug Charges, there are loads of criminal charges that a person can find themselves being charged with. Amongst these is any number of those that are Misdemeanors, like Disorderly Person, Domestic Violence, and Retail Fraud. Similarly, any number are Felonies, like Aggravated Assault, Larceny and Receiving and Concealing Stolen Property.
In the previous sections on Controlled Substance offenses, Drunk Driving, and Marijuana Possession, I have tried to explain the usual process in which these cases are handled. While there is really no way to give a universal answer that covers every other kind of case and how it’s handled, and since it would be too monumental a task to describe every kind of case individually, I thought I’d try to give some general facts about the numerous “other charges” a person might be facing and how the Court case works.
First off, let’s acknowledge that pretty much anybody charged with a crime would like to have the whole thing dismissed. However, short of things like misidentification, or having the witness against them repeatedly not show up in court, dismissals are not very common. Most people are going to have to either fight the case against them, or work out some kind of plea or sentence deal to resolve it favorably.
Certain kinds of criminal offenses are written in a way that contains a built-in “keep it off your record” deal. In other words, if the Defense Attorney can get the Prosecutor and Judge to agree, or in certain cases, just the Judge alone to agree, a person can work out a plea deal that will allow them to admit the charge without having a conviction for it placed upon their criminal record. That class of cases covers things like, but not necessarily limited to, Assault and Battery, Domestic Violence, Drug Charges of all types, Minor in Possession of Alcohol, and Retail Fraud. What’s even better is that the legal fees involved in working out such a deal is far lower than what a person would spend in fighting the case. To be more specific, in certain of these cases no conviction ever goes upon a person’s record, while in others, it comes off after they complete a Probationary term to the Court.
All Criminal Cases involve a Prosecutor. In certain cases, it’s the State Prosecutor (more specifically, the County Prosecutor), and in others, in the City or Township Attorney. Hiring a Lawyer who knows the Prosecutor and has a good working relationship with them is a good and wise move.
In any Criminal Case, the first thing a Defense Lawyer wants to do is to see the Police Report, and any other supplemental reports and information in the Prosecutor’s file. By law, the Defense has the right to view any and every piece of information the Prosecution has. Of course, the goal here is to find problems with the Prosecutor’s case and the evidence against the Defendant.
After reviewing all of the Prosecutor's information, the Defense Attorney can then begin to enter into candid, honest discussions with the Prosecutor. If there are defects in, or problems with the Prosecutor's case against a Defendant, then the existence of those problems can be used to negotiate a plea bargain, or reduction of the original charges. Obviously, if the problems with a case against a Defendant are serious enough, the Defense may choose to fight the charge at trial or otherwise look to obtain a dismissal of the charges based upon the flawed evidence.
In cases where there is no likelihood of a dismissal, and where the Defendant does not want to endure the expense and uncertain outcome of a trial, some kind of plea or sentence bargain is usually reached between the Defense Attorney and the Prosecutor. This then means that the Defendant will go before the Judge and enter a plea of guilty to the bargained-down charge, or to the original charge with a sentencing agreement or recommendation.
In some misdemeanor cases, the Judge will look to Sentence the Defendant right then and there. Usually, if this takes place, the Defendant will be placed on Probation and not sent to jail.
In other misdemeanor cases, sometimes because it’s required by law, and other times simply because the Judge wants to do it, and in all Felony Cases, a person will enter his or her plea one day, and be given another Court date for the Sentencing to occur. The Judge will order, in the meantime, that the Defendant report to the Court’s Probation Department in order to undergo what is called a “PSI” or “Screening.” This means that the Defendant will have to make an appointment to come back and meet with a Probation Officer, who will obtain all kinds of information about the Defendant, including where and what kind of home life he or she came from, what he or she is doing now (working, going to school, between jobs, etc.) and what help and punishment the Defendant needs.
For example, a person who enters a plea in a Domestic Violence Case will always be ordered to attend some kind of Anger Management counseling.
The Probation Officer looks at the facts of the case, and tries to determine if the Defendant is a good enough risk to be placed on Probation and stay out of trouble, or, if a particularly serious crime is involved, whether the Defendant should be locked up in Jail, or Prison.
The end result of the “PSI” or “Screening” process is a written report summarizing the case to the Judge, and recommending to the Judge what should be done with, and to, the Defendant. Sometimes counseling of one sort or another is recommended. In unfortunate cases, a Jail, or even Prison sentence is recommended. Usually, these reports contain at least a recommendation that the Defendant be placed on Probation, and further specify all kinds of other things the Defendant must do, and not do, while on that Probation.
The Defendant, if placed on Probation, will have to complete the term of Probation without any violations. This means that they must not only get done whatever the Judge orders them to do, but they must also not get into any trouble, or fail any drug or alcohol tests, or pick up any new criminal charges while on Probation. By simply doing what they are ordered to do, and not doing what they were ordered not to do, a person will complete their term of Probation and be discharged from further Court supervision.
And with that, a Defendant’s journey through the Court system is complete