Answers To Frequently Asked Questions About Felony Crimes

First, you need to understand that you can not be compelled to make any statements to the police.  You have the constitutional right to remain silent and not incriminate yourself.  You also have the right to the presence and assistance of the counsel of your choice and, if you are indigent and can not afford to hire counsel, to have the court appoint counsel for you once you are charged with a felony crime.  You should invoke these rights and decline to answer any questions or make any voluntary statements to police until you consult with a lawyer. 

However, you must invoke these rights by clearly telling the police officers that you want to speak with an attorney and are not going to answer any of their questions, or make any statements to them, until you have consulted with your lawyer and your lawyer is physically present with you.  Then, stop talking and remain silent until your attorney arrives or you bond out of jail.

When you invoke your rights, they may threaten to arrest you or they may actually arrest you. But, if they do arrest you, they probably already had an arrest warrant for you, or intended to arrest you anyway, but were waiting to see if you would voluntarily confess or incriminate yourself before they arrested you. 

You should also refuse to voluntarily waive any of your rights. You should not voluntarily consent to allow the police to search your home, office, cell phones, computers, or other property without a valid search warrant signed by a judge or magistrate. You should not voluntarily produce any correspondence, documents, financial or accounting records, or any other tangible things in response to a subpoena before you speak with your attorney.  If you do, you may waive, forfeit, or lose valuable rights and protections that may irrevocably damage your case. 

Without a lawyer present, you are at high risk for inadvertently damaging your defense with self-incriminating statements. It is crucial that you exercise your right to remain silent and have the representation of an experienced criminal defense lawyer. As soon as possible, contact a trustworthy, knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney.  Make an appointment to sit down to discuss your case in detail, the defenses that may be available to you, your options moving forward, and what it would cost for the attorney to accept your case and start working on your defense.  Contact David E. Stanley right now to request your completely confidential criminal defense strategy session.

You should begin by organizing your thoughts. The time will go by quickly. It will help tremendously if you are organized.  Gather. organize, and prepare your factual information, witness information, and questions before the meeting. If you were involved in an incident or activity that resulted in your arrest, or that you believe may result in the filing of criminal charges, you need to prepare a brief summary of what happened. The summary should include who was present when the incident or activity occurred, the date of the incident, where it occurred, what happened, how it happened and why it happened.  Also, be prepared to discuss your conduct during the incident and the conduct of all other people present.  If you are able, make a list containing the names, addresses, telephone numbers, and e-mail addresses of all present when the incident occurred or that you believe have any information, documents, or other evidence that is relevant to  your case.  Bring the summary and this list to your appointment and give it to your attorney. 

Next, think about how law enforcement became involved and begin to investigate the incident. Who first contacted them and, if you know, what did they tell them. What law enforcement agency came to the scene to investigate, or stopped you, or came to your home or place of employment. What were the names of the police officers, and did they give you a business card or any of their contact information.  If you were arrested, did the jail give you any documents when you were released.  Did your bail bondsman provide you with any documents? If so, bring copies with you to the appointment. 

Did you make any voluntary statements, or answer their questions, about the incident or your involvement in it.  If you did, then write down everything that you said to them in as much detail as you can remember.  Did you consent to let them search your home, office, cell phones, computers, or other property without a valid search warrant? If so, make a list of everything that they seized during the search and bring it with you to the appointment.  

Did you voluntarily give them any correspondence, documents, financial or accounting records, or any other tangible things without a subpoena?  If so, make a list of everything that you gave them and bring it with you to the appointment. 

Bring copies of any booking records, affidavits, search warrants, return on search warrant, arrest warrants, court notices and other documents related to your case with you to the appointment and show them to your attorney.  Once you retain counsel, let your attorney deal with law enforcement and assist you with the preparation of your response to any subpoena for your records.

Next, make a short list of questions that you want to ask Mr. Stanley during the appointment.  These questions should focus on the information that is most important for you to make an informed and reasoned decision about your case.  

To do this, it may be helpful to think about your goals and objectives for the resolution of this case.  If you did not commit the crime, or you believe that you have a valid defense, such as self defense, defense of others, intoxication, entrapment, or some other affirmative defense, then you will most probably want to take your case to trial if necessary.  You may want to ask questions to learn more about available defenses or the law applicable to your case. 

Sometimes, you may believe that the police violated your rights by, for example, conducting an illegal search of your home or property, and you want to contest that issue in a motion to suppress the evidence seized unlawfully.  In that case, if the motion to suppress is denied, you may want to enter a Crosby guilty plea in which you plead guilty but reserve your right to appeal the denial of your motion to suppress the evidence unlawfully seized during the search.  

If you admit that you committed the crime, your goal may be to avoid a trial, or have your lawyer negotiate a plea to a lesser charge, or negotiate for a suspended sentence, or for a disposition under Articles 893 or 894 of the Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure.  Ask questions that will help you understand the process so that you can make an educated and informed decision. 

Before you meet with Mr. Stanley, you need to have a clear idea of what you want to do to defend yourself and discuss it with your attorney.  The amount of the attorney’s fee for the representation will depend on the scope of the services that you are asking him to perform during the course of the representation.    

Next, you need to think about what type of fee arrangement  will best fit your financial situation.  Do you want cost certainty concerning the total amount of the attorney’s fee for your case?  If so, you may want to ask him to provide you with a fixed fee for attorney’s fees through the completion of trial and, if necessary, sentencing.  However, if you are charged with one or more serious felony charges, you should expect that the fixed fee will be a substantial amount that reflects an estimate of the total amount of time the attorney will spend working on the case until its conclusion plus an additional sum for the estimated case costs. 

In a fixed fee arrangement, the fee that you pay your attorney does not depend on whether the case goes to trial or not.  It also does not depend on the amount of time the case takes to resolve.  The fixed fee may, in the end, be more or less than what the attorney would charge if he billed you at his hourly rate.  The advantage of the fixed fee is that it is capped and you know at the beginning of the case exactly how much the attorney’s fees will cost regardless if there are unforeseen complications or it drags on for a long time. Case costs are not capped but are dependant on what the particular case requires. 

On the other hand, if you want a smaller up front payment, ask Mr. Stanley to quote you an hourly fee with an advance deposit.  The advance deposit is deposited into the attorney’s trust account and is held for your benefit. As the case progresses, the attorney periodically bills you for the time spent on your case, and the case costs incurred by the attorney, until the case is over.  He deducts his fees and costs from the retainer as work progresses.  If the retainer is used up before the case is concluded, you must periodically replenish the retainer as many times as is necessary until the conclusion of the case.  You must make sure that you will be able to replenish the retainer as often as needed until the conclusion of your case. There is no cap on the total amount of the fee but you only pay for the time your attorney spent working on your case and the costs incurred by the attorney during the representation. Any unused funds left at the conclusion of the case are refunded to you. 

Mr. Stanley also offer other types of fee arrangements. You should ask him about the types of alternative fee arrangements that he offers and discuss which option best fits your situation and budget. 

Finally, you need to think carefully about your finances and your budget for your case.  What income and assets do you have available to use to pay your attorney?  Do you have the funds available in your account to pay your attorney? Can you charge the attorney’s fees and costs to one or more credit cards? Can you borrow the funds to pay your attorney from a bank, credit union, your retirement funds, or family or friends and pay the loan back over time?  Is a family member or friend willing to guarantee payment of your account. Do you have the assets and income that will permit you to pay part of the fee up front and the balance in quarterly or monthly payments?  Before you meet with your attorney, you need to have clear answers to these questions. You should review your finances, secure any necessary loans, line up any needed financial assistance, and make all of the necessary arrangements so that you know that you have the funds available in your account to retain the attorney should you desire to do so. 

During the meeting, you and Mr. Stanley should have an open and honest conversation regarding attorney’s fees, case costs, your case case budget, and the type of fee agreement that best fits your financial situation so that there are no surprises or misunderstandings by either of you. The engagement letter for the representation will be in writing and signed by you and Mr. Stanley.  You will receive a signed copy for your records.

The Louisiana Criminal Code, specifically La. R.S. 14:2, defines a felony as any crime for which an offender may be sentenced to death or imprisonment at hard labor.

Sex crimes: Examples of felony sex crimes include first degree rape, second degree rape, third degree rape, sexual battery, second degree sexual battery, oral sexual battery, molestation of juveniles, aggravated crime against nature, carnal knowledge of a juvenile, indecent behavior with juveniles, possession or production of pornography, and human trafficking.

Violent crimes: Examples of felony crimes of violence include first degree murder, second degree murder, solicitation for murder, manslaughter, aggravated kidnapping, second degree kidnapping, simple kidnapping, aggravated arson, home invasion, carjacking, purse snatching, armed robbery, aggravated battery, second degree battery, aggravated assault, assault by drive-by shooting, and aggravated assault with a firearm

Drug crimes: Examples of felony drug crimes include possession of drugs classified in Schedules I - V; possession with intent to distribute a controlled dangerous substance or controlled substance analogue classified in Schedule I - V; creation or operation of a clandestine laboratory for the unlawful manufacture of a controlled dangerous substance; and soliciting minors to produce, manufacture, distribute, or dispense controlled dangerous substances.

Property crimes: Examples of felony property crimes include looting, criminal damage to property, arson, burglary, unauthorized entry of an inhabited dwelling, theft, and fraud.

In the most serious felony crimes, such as first degree murder, a conviction may result in the offender being sentenced to death.  Upon conviction for some serious crimes, the offender will receive a mandatory sentence of imprisonment at hard labor for life without the benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence.  These offenses include second degree murder, first degree rape, aggravated kidnapping, and terrorism involving the intentional killing of a human being.  Other felony crimes may result in a lengthy mandatory minimum term of imprisonment without the benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence.

In addition to a lengthy term of imprisonment, a felony sentence may also require the offender to pay a substantial fine, make financial restitution to the victim, forfeit property used in the commission of the offense, submit to lengthy terms of supervised or unsupervised probation, attend classes, perform community service, and submit to random drug testing. For some offenses, a conviction may not be eligible for expungement or sentencing under the provisions of Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure Articles 893. 

One very serious collateral consequence of a criminal conviction is its effect on a person’s immigration status in the United States.  In Padilla v. Kentucky the United States Supreme Court ruled that the Sixth Amendment’s guarantee of effective assistance of counsel requires that counsel for the defendant must give the defendant notice of, and advise the defendant concerning, the deportation consequences of a proposed guilty plea that he or she is considering.  As a result, some courts include specific notice to the defendant, during the hearing in which the court is considering whether to accept the defendant’s guilty plea, concerning the possibility that acceptance of the guilty plea may result in immigration consequences for the defendant, including deportation, reversal of naturalization and non-admission.

There are many other collateral consequences.  For example, a person convicted of a felony may not own or possess a firearm.  If they do so, they may be found guilty of committing a separate felony offense.  A person convicted of certain felony sex crimes must initially register as a sex offender with local authorities and, each time they change their residence.  A DWI or DUI conviction may result in the loss of driving privileges for a period of time.

A felony conviction will also deprive the offender of the right to vote for a period of time. It may also result in a loss of government benefits, prevent the offender from obtaining a professional license, or prevent the individual from obtaining a TWIC  card, and make it difficult to find housing and employment.

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