When it comes to criminal law, there is much confusion regarding how the system works. This article addresses some of the most commonly asked questions regarding criminal law. For specific questions, don’t hesitate to contact our law office for expert advice pertaining to your individual situation.
What are the different roles of law enforcement?
It’s essential to understand the different distinctions between law enforcement agencies as each has different powers and jurisdictions. All law enforcement agencies obtain their authority from one of four governmental bodies, city, county, state, or federal.
Each city typically has its own police department. A county, however, is made up of several cities and will have a sheriff department. County law enforcement has jurisdiction in their stationed county. Each state also has its own police department with jurisdiction over an entire state. Federal Law Enforcement Agencies, such as the F.B.I., D.E.A, and Secret Service, have jurisdiction to prosecute Federal Crimes anywhere in the United States.
What tools do criminal defense lawyers have available to help their clients?
There are many legal tools that a Defense Attorney has at their disposal, primarily, the rights provided to each citizen under the Constitution.
Some common defense strategies include excluding coerced confessions or evidence obtained during unlawful searches. The ultimate goal of a criminal defense lawyer is to prevent incriminating evidence from being used against their client at trial.
What is bail, and how does it work?
Bail is a monetary tool used by the courts to ensure a defendant comes to trial. In cases where bail is offered, a defendant can pay a sum determined by the courts to remain free until the trial is over. Bail is paid to the court and is returned to the defendant when he or she is present for trial. In the event a defendant doesn’t show up to the trial, bail is forfeited and becomes the property of the court.
What factors are considered for sentencing?
In most cases, a jury will determine a defendant’s guilt or innocence. It is a judge that will determine sentencing. States and the Federal Government have implemented sentencing guidelines. Such guidelines are used at the judge’s discretion to issue the minimum, the maximum, or anywhere in between.
Many factors will be considered by a judge for sentencing including but not limited to past criminal history, the defendant’s role in the crime, and whether anyone was hurt during the crime.
What is the distinction between a felony, misdemeanor, and infraction?
There are three classes of crimes you can be accused of and convicted. They include infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies.
The lowest form of a crime is considered an infraction and is typically resolved by payment of a fine. A speeding ticket is an example of an infraction.
The next level of a crime is a misdemeanor. Misdemeanor convictions may carry jail time (less than 2 1/2 years) and heavy fines. A drunk driving charge is an example of a misdemeanor.
Lastly, a felony is the most severe type of crime and can result in long-term imprisonment (punishable by more than 2/1/2 years). Fraud and murder can lead to felony convictions.
If you’ve been charged with a crime in Massachusetts, please contact our office to learn your options and discuss your constitutional rights.