I have a preliminary hearing tomorrow. What should I do?
Never, Ever, Try to Represent Yourself
Without a strategic and effective legal argument, it will be extremely difficult to defend yourself and your rights against the charges being filed against you. If you are forced by circumstances to go to court without legal counsel, ask the court for an adjournment so that you can get an attorney.
The police are at my door right now and they want to search the house. Should I allow them inside?
Instead, demand a warrant. This requires that the police go to a judge and show probable cause that evidence of a crime is in the house, and they must be able to detail what that evidence is. If you consent to a search without a warrant, you will lose your right to challenge the search in court. Warrants can only be issued using “reliable” information. If the search is illegal and not based on credible information, you can bring a motion to suppress as evidence anything that was taken, meaning it will not be allowed at your trial.
The police are at my door right now and want to question me. Should I talk?
Do Not Succumb to Seemingly Informal Questioning
Most cases that end up being charged criminally are the result of interrogations such as this. It’s almost always a bad idea to talk to police until after you know what they’re looking for, even if you believe you’re not in trouble or that you’ve done nothing wrong.
I or a loved one was just arrested. What should I do?
Obtain a Copy of the Criminal Complaint
Find out what charge is being brought against you, and get a copy of the criminal complaint. You can get this from the court file at the clerk’s office since these are public documents. This will give you a brief summary of the charges against you and who the witnesses are.
I was just sentenced and I want to appeal. What is my next step?
Know the Process
If convicted, a defendant may appeal his conviction by filing a Motion for Post-Conviction Relief with the trial judge, or by taking a direct appeal to the Court of Appeals. The conviction will either be reversed or upheld. If the conviction is reversed, a new trial will be held unless the prosecutor decides not to proceed. If the conviction is upheld, the defendant may try to get the Supreme Court to review the case. There is no automatic right, though, to have the case heard, and the Supreme Court only accepts about 6% of all cases filed. The Court of Appeals is designed to correct errors made by the trial court, including procedural errors, while the Supreme Court focuses mainly on constitutional issues that will have a broad, state-wide impact. The Supreme Court will not review for errors made during the trial unless the errors rise to a level that fundamentally caused an unfair trial.