This is the second post in our series discussing why it is important to consult with a private attorney when one has been arrested for an Arkansas misdemeanor. Our last post introduced the topics this series will discuss in more depth. In this post we will be discussing what happens after one has been arrested for a misdemeanor and what to expect from the process.
Many Arkansas defendants err by accepting a plea deal before speaking to an attorney
One of two things will happen once a person is arrested on a misdemeanor charge – either the person will be given a citation and be provided a court date or they will be brought before a Judge within 48 hours of their arrest. The charges will be read at the first appearance and the accused will then be asked to plead guilty or not guilty. If you choose to plead guilty then the Judge will base your sentence on the facts you have admitted to, the prosecutor’s recommendation, and the statutory minimums for the given charges. If you plead not guilty you will be given a trial date for which you must appear. .
It is important to know that not everyone is entitled to a public defender in Arkansas. During your first appearance in front of a Judge you will be asked if you would like to be represented by an attorney and if you can afford to pay for counsel. You will not, however, be appointed an attorney simply because you want one; if the Court believes you make too much money then an attorney will not be appointed to you. Many Little Rock residents fall into this grey area – they do not qualify for a public defender but they do not believe they have enough money to hire a private lawyer. This often leads to Arkansas residents pleading guilty or no contest to misdemeanor charges as they do not believe hiring a private attorney would be worth the expense. Many persons who have a strong defense, or who could possibly gain a dismissal of the charges, find themselves with a permanent criminal record when this happens.
Hiring or at least consulting with an attorney will help an Arkansas resident explore their options and potential outcomes
Most criminal defense attorneys offer initial consultations for free or at a nominal fee. Meeting with a lawyer prior to pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge is important in that one can find out if they have a viable defense. In many misdemeanor cases it turns out that law enforcement did not follow proper procedures, evidence against a person is only circumstantial, or a person’s civil rights were violated. Hiring a private lawyer may help with obtaining a better plea deal, or even gaining an outright dismissal, as opposed to one trying to handle the case themselves.
If you have been charged with a misdemeanor, it is important to at least consult an attorney prior to pleading to a charge. A good criminal defense attorney will explain to you your options and give you an idea of how your money will be spent. Do not give up your rights and freedom without knowing your rights. Call our Arkansas lawyers today.