THE LAW OFFICE OF TERRENCE P KIRBY LEGAL RESOURCES
A quick FAQ to help guide you through the legal maze.
Legal Resources ImageWhile we specialize in Criminal Law and Bankruptcy Law in Indianapolis, Central Indiana, Hamilton County, Johnson County, and Hendrickâ€™s County. Here are some generally helpful tips that anyone can use. Remember that not all advice fits every situation, and we therefore strongly encourage you to seek the advice of an experienced Indiana attorney for information on all your legal questions.
Criminal Defense - An Overview
The criminal justice system can be overwhelming and frightening. The incarceration rate in the United States is much higher than that of many other industrialized countries. Prison sentences are getting longer and more frequent. If you face the possibility of being accused of a crime, contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer as early in the process as possible, preferably even before questioning or investigation by the police. A criminal defense lawyer can fight to protect your legal and constitutional rights. Don't delay. Contact the Law Office of Terrence Kirby in Indianapolis, Indiana, today to schedule a consultation with an attorney.
Q: Do I need a lawyer's help if I am accused of a crime?
A: It is in your best interest to consult a criminal defense lawyer as early as possible if you suspect you will be facing the criminal justice system. Whether or not you believe you have been wrongfully accused, an attorney will fight for your legal and constitutional rights, and monitor the proceedings for legality and fairness. If you cannot afford an attorney, you may be eligible for free legal counsel.
Q: What is the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor?
A: The traditional definition of a felony is a crime that is punishable by a year or more in jail. A misdemeanor is a crime that is punishable by imprisonment of less than one year. Felonies are more serious crimes than misdemeanors. Exact definitions may vary by jurisdiction.
Under federal criminal law and the laws of about half of the states, a felony is a crime that is punishable by imprisonment of a year or more. Other states may define a felony as a crime that is punishable by death or a prison sentence served in a state penitentiary. Generally speaking, the most serious crimes such as those that are particularly heinous, involve dangerous weapons, or threaten relatively high amounts of financial damage or harm to property, are classified as felonies.
Examples of felonies include murder, treason, rape, arson, burglary and kidnapping.
For federal felonies, defendants have the right to be charged only by a grand jury. This right varies for state felonies.
Because of the seriousness of the offense and the punishment, maximum safeguards for the defendant's rights are built into the prosecution and court procedures in a felony trial.
Indigent defendants who cannot afford to hire lawyers and are facing felony charges have the right to free state-appointed criminal defense attorneys.
In addition to social stigma, long-term consequences may include the loss of the right to vote; ineligibility for elected office or professional licenses; restrictions on the right to possess weapons; ineligibility for housing, public benefits, educational benefits or certain jobs; problems up to and including removal; loss of the right to serve as a juror; negative impact on parental rights or divorce proceedings; or the requirement to register with certain criminal registries.
Persons accused of felonies have the right to jury trials.
A limited number of crimes, such as murder, can be punished by the death penalty in some jurisdictions. These crimes are often referred to as capital offenses.
Under federal criminal law and the criminal laws in about half of the states, a misdemeanor is a crime for which the maximum possible punishment is incarceration for less than a year. In other states, a misdemeanor may be defined as a crime punishable only by a fine or by incarceration in a jail. Some states have different classes of misdemeanors; for example, "petty offenses" that are punishable by six months or less in jail, and "simple" or "minor" misdemeanors that have a maximum punishment of 90 days in jail.
Generally, misdemeanors are crimes that are less violent or involve lower levels of harm than felonies do. The legal procedures for misdemeanors are usually simpler than for felonies, the penalties less severe and the long-term consequences less harsh.
Penalties typically include fines, loss of property or incarceration in a jail for less than one year.
There is no federal right to a grand jury for a misdemeanor, and state grand-jury rights for misdemeanors vary.
Court procedures may be more relaxed than those for felonies.
Indigent defendants are generally only eligible for free state-appointed legal counsel when the misdemeanor charges can result in imprisonment upon conviction.
Long-term consequences are normally less severe than those of felonies, although some of the felony consequences listed above may still apply to misdemeanors, depending on the jurisdiction. However, those convicted of misdemeanors generally retain the right to vote.
Generally, if the potential punishment is imprisonment for less than six months, there is no right to a jury trial.
The least severe infractions are minor traffic offenses and the like. The terminology varies by state, but common terms for these offenses include petty offenses, infractions or violations of local law. Often the only penalty is a fine and sometimes the infraction may not even be considered a crime. Violations of local ordinances may be punishable by a fine or a short period of incarceration (maximum length of 90 days).
Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer
It is important to keep in mind that crime classifications vary by jurisdiction and that this article provides general information. To understand the details of a criminal charge in your jurisdiction, talk to a Defense Attorney Terrence P. Kirby in Indianapolis, Indiana, who can explain the potential punishment and ramifications.
Q. How much should I say?
A. Be open and honest. Your Indiana attorney can only help you insofar as you help him or her understand your case. Keeping details or information from your Indiana lawyer not only makes his or her job that much difficult, it is in every case a detriment to your claim or defense. Your Indiana lawyer is there to represent you and you therefore need to have enough trust in him or her to divulge everything pertaining to your situation. Your Indiana attorney will in most cases ask questions that may seem very personal in nature, or might upset you. Remember that their only concern is to ensure you come out of the situation with the best results possible, and as such you should answer honestly and not feel defensive when being questioned.
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Q. Should I ask questions?
A. Ask questions and make sure you get answers. Your Indiana attorney, if skilled, qualified and experienced, should expect you to have many questions about your case, their background, the cost of the proceedings and other aspects of the law. Any Indiana lawyer who can not or will not take the time to answer these questions clearly and openly should not be trusted. You should know exactly what to expect walking in to legal proceedings, from lawyer fees to court procedures. Make sure you are comfortable with your Indiana attorney and that they can explain legal lingo to your entire satisfaction before deciding on hiring him or her.
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