Frequently Asked Questions
Get Answers from a New York Criminal Defense Attorney
Choosing the right attorney to defend your criminal case is an extremely
important decision because your liberty is at stake. Below are some answers
to frequently asked questions for your general information. They should
not be used as a substitute for discussing the facts of your particular
case with an experienced criminal defense attorney. Contact Richard Southard
today for a free consultation about your case.
When can a police officer lawfully arrest me?
A police officer may arrest you if he is acting under the authority of
an arrest warrant. If the officer has no warrant, he must have probable
cause to believe that you committed or attempted to commit a crime. When
making an arrest without a warrant, a police officer must tell you the
reason for the arrest, unless you are in the act of committing the offense.
Remember, it is a crime to resist an officer who is legally arresting you.
What should I do if I am arrested?
If you are arrested, consult an experienced criminal defense lawyer immediately.
You owe it to yourself when you or someone you care about is accused of
a crime to consult with Richard Southard. He has the experience of both
sides. He knows how a prosecutor thinks and uses this experience to plan
a successful defense strategy. Inform the arresting officer that you wish
to call a lawyer as soon as possible.
What are some of the rights I have if I am arrested?
The right to remain silent is guaranteed in the Constitution. However,
it is human nature for people to try to talk their way out of trouble.
This rarely works when dealing with police officers. It is more likely
that at trial, the prosecutor will try and use what you told the police
against you. You have the right to speak with a lawyer prior to answering
any questions. Exercise that right. Make sure you discuss with your attorney
which questions, if any, you should answer.
You also have the right to be free from unlawful searches. If the police
violate this right, Mr. Southard will take the steps necessary to have
this illegally seized evidence thrown out of court.
You have a right to a fair identification procedure. Should someone identify
you in a police arranged identification procedure, the police must use
adequate safeguards to insure that the procedure was not unduly suggestive.
If this right is violated, a judge may throw out the identification testimony entirely.
How do I get out of jail once I have been arrested?
In most arrests, you will be brought before a judge within 24 hours. The
judge will listen to arguments from the prosecutor about whether you will
have to stay in jail while you are awaiting future court dates. Richard
Southard argues to the judge to have you immediately released from jail
on the promise that you will return to court on the date and time specified.
If a judge refuses, the judge may require that bail be posted as a condition
of your release. Under the United States Constitution, the amount of bail
cannot be excessive or arbitrary. You need to hire an experienced criminal
attorney who knows which factors the judge will consider in setting the
amount of bail, so that if bail is set, it will be an amount that you
What is the Court process after my arrest?
In New York, crimes are categorized by seriousness as felonies or misdemeanors.
Typically, there are many court appearances, even without a trial. If
you are being prosecuted for a felony crime, the prosecutor will present
evidence to a grand jury, who will determine what charges, if any, you
will be tried on. Richard Southard has presented numerous cases to the
grand jury, while he was a prosecutor and he is well-suited to advise
you about this process and to insure that your rights are protected at
this stage. The burden of proof used by the grand jury is very low but
the accused still have significant rights, such as the right to testify
on their own behalf and tell the grand jury what happened. If the grand
jury does not believe the prosecutor has sufficient evidence, the case
can be over without the lengthy appearances and possibly without the expense
of a trial.
As the case proceeds, your lawyer will have frequent discussions with the
prosecutor regarding the possibility of a plea bargain (settlement) in
your case. Having been a supervisor in charge of approving plea bargains,
Mr. Southard knows the factors that enter into a prosecutor’s decision
of how and whether to settle your case without the risk of trial. He understands
that different jurisdictions have different policies on plea bargaining
and uses his experience to insure that he gets his clients the best possible
offers. For federal crimes, Federal Sentencing Guidelines and stiffer
sentencing enhancements make both plea bargaining and going to trial more
difficult and riskier. This current state of affairs makes it even more
important to analyze and make the decision when to attempt settlement
in the case.
If a settlement cannot be worked out, you are entitled to have a “speedy”
trial. If the prosecutor does not comply with this requirement, your case
must be dismissed upon a motion by a knowledgeable attorney.
How do I choose the right criminal attorney for my case?
Hiring the right lawyer makes a huge difference in criminal cases. It is
an important investment in protecting your rights, whether or not you
decide to take your case to trial. Your liberty is at stake.
Choose a lawyer with extensive trial experience. Mr. Southard’s extensive
trial experience enables him to determine the strengths and weaknesses
of your case. He has the credibility with prosecutors to negotiate the
best deal for you. While fees are certainly important, cost should not
be the sole basis for choosing a lawyer. The old saying, “you get
what you pay for” can certainly apply when dealing with lawyers.
Research every potential lawyer. Ask about past accomplishments and criminal
experience. Don’t hire a lawyer that won’t or can’t
answer your questions in terms that you understand. Hire an attorney that
will explain your options to you without pressuring you. Hire an attorney
that you can trust.
Make an appointment today for a free consultation, to see how Richard Southard
can help you through this difficult period.