Criminal Defense Information
Since 1992, the likelihood of an arrest leading to a conviction has generally risen. Although some defendants think that they can “beat the system” on their own, having an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side is the only way to prevent becoming another statistic.
Our team at Martens Law Office, P.C., in Boise, Idaho, believes strongly in aggressively defending clients who face serious misdemeanor or felony criminal charges.
As an experienced criminal defense attorney, Jared B. Martens energetically represents Idaho clients facing charges involving DUI / DWI, traffic violations, truck driver traffic violations, drug crimes, violent crimes, property crimes, and other criminal charges.
Mr. Martens will closely examine every aspect of the events leading to the arrest and your treatment afterward in order to look for grounds on which to fight or mitigate the criminal charges. His goal is always to work to achieve the best outcome possible while protecting your rights and freedom. Contact our staff at Martens Law Office, P.C., for a consultation.
Information on topics in criminal defense law of a general nature appears below.
Criminal Defense – An Overview
Our criminal justice system can be overwhelming and frightening. The incarceration rate in the United States is much higher than in many other industrialized countries. Prison sentences are getting longer and more frequent. If you face the possibility of being accused or convicted 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. Our skilled attorney can fight for your legal and constitutional rights.
Our criminal justice system is complex, both conceptually and procedurally. To ensure the fairness of the proceedings, each court system has its own rules of criminal procedure that govern the actions of all players: police, defense lawyers, prosecutors, judges, and juries.
The U.S. Constitution requires that criminal defendants be accorded due process of law in all proceedings against them. Broadly, this means that throughout the criminal justice process, the rules of criminal procedure must be observed with all constitutional protections in place. Due process requires such things as reasonable notice of proceedings and fair hearings when a person is facing substantial negative consequences, such as incarceration
Stages Of A Criminal Case
During the investigation of a crime, the police review the facts, interview witnesses and gather evidence against suspect(s). Once the police have enough evidence, they can ask a judge to sign an arrest warrant for a suspect.
Arrest And Bail
After being arrested, a suspect will go before the judge, who will either set bail or decline to set any bail so that the suspect must remain in jail until the trial. Bail is an amount of money that the suspect must post so that he or she can get out of jail. The amount of bail depends on a number of factors including the severity of the crime the suspect is accused of, the strength of the prosecution’s case, whether the accused has a criminal history and whether the suspect is a flight risk. A history of failure to appears will likely result in a higher bond amount. If the suspect shows up for future court dates, the bail money is returned. If, however, the suspect doesn’t show up or flees, the court will keep the money and issue an arrest warrant.
The accused first appears before the judge at an arraignment. At this proceeding, the judge informs the accused of the criminal charges, asks the accused whether he or she has an attorney or wants a court-appointed attorney, asks how the accused will plead to the charges, determines whether to modify the initial amount of bail and sets a schedule for future court dates. In most misdemeanor cases within the state of Idaho, the Defendant does not need to appear at the initial arraignment if they have retained an attorney. In felony cases, the defendant and the defendant’s attorney must appear at all scheduled hearings, including the initial arraignment.
In felony cases, a magistrate judge will hold a preliminary hearing during which the prosecution must show that there is enough evidence supporting the charges against the defendant that the case can proceed to the next stage. It is an adversarial proceeding and the defendant’s attorney has the right to cross-examine the prosecution’s witnesses. It is also sometimes called a “preliminary examination” or “probable cause hearing.”
Generally a criminal defendant, through his or her attorney and the prosecution can negotiate an agreement that resolves the criminal matter. Usually, the prosecutor agrees to reduce a charge, drop some of the multiple charges or recommend a more lenient sentence in exchange for the defendant entering a plea of guilty, often to a lesser offense. A seasoned criminal defense attorney can be a great resource to a criminal defendant throughout the plea-bargaining process.
Trial And Sentencing
At trial, the prosecutor and defense attorney will select a jury, give opening and closing statements, introduce evidence and question witnesses. If a defendant is found guilty, the court will impose a sentence, which may include incarceration, fines, court costs, restitution and probation. For minor crimes, the sentence may be issued right away. For more serious crimes, a Pre Sentence Investigation will be conducted and then the prosecution and defense will submit evidence and arguments regarding what the appropriate sentence should be. In Idaho, a judge will decide the sentence. In other states, sentencing is completely separate from the trial, with a different jury determining the sentence. During this separate sentencing phase, the prosecution will present aggravating factors to argue for a harsher sentence and the defense will present mitigating factors in favor of a lesser sentence. Also, before the sentence is issued, the defendant has the right to allocution, which is when the defendant can address the judge directly. It may be a chance for the defendant to apologize, show remorse or explain his or her actions.
To better protect yourself throughout your involvement with the criminal justice system, consult with our informed, knowledgeable criminal defense attorney at Martens Law Office, P.C., in Boise, Idaho. We can work hard on your behalf to see that protections afforded criminal defendants are preserved for you.
Constitutional Protections For The Criminal Defendant
The Constitution and its subsequent amendments define the scope of governmental power and reserve certain individual rights to the people. The first 10 amendments, also called the Bill of Rights, contain basic, fundamental rights of individuals on which the government, federal, state or local may not impinge. Many of these constitutional rights provide protection to criminal defendants in the criminal justice system. The Fourteenth Amendment extends substantive due process rights beyond just the federal system to criminal defendants in state and local courts, where the vast majority of criminal trials occur.
The basic constitutional rights of the criminal defendant permeate every aspect of the criminal justice process. If you have been accused of a crime, whether federal, state or local, our criminal defense attorney can explain these rights to you and help you fight for them every step of the way.
Listed below are the main federal constitutional rights guaranteed to criminal defendants in the United States to promote fair trials. Remember that these rights have been refined and interpreted by the courts and an attorney can advise you about their role in and application to your particular case.
- The right to due process of law
- The right to equal protection under the law
- The right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure
- The right against self-incrimination or being forced to testify against oneself
- The right against double jeopardy or being tried more than once for the same offense
- The right to legal counsel
- The right to a speedy, public trial
- The right to an impartial jury trial
- The right to confront witnesses against you
- The right to call supporting witnesses
- The right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment
- The prohibition against ex post facto laws or laws that retroactively criminalize certain acts or increase criminal sanctions
- The right to be free from excessive fines or excessive bail
- The right to clear notice of criminal charges
- The right to a grand jury in federal felony proceedings
Our criminal justice system is designed through constitutional protections to provide a criminal defendant with a fair and speedy trial. If you face any phase of the process, consult with our experienced attorney as early as possible to enlist an important ally in your quest to protect your legal and constitutional rights.
The Right To Counsel
The Sixth Amendment of the Constitution guarantees the right to an attorney to anyone facing federal criminal charges. The 14th Amendment and some state constitutions also afford this right to anyone facing state felony charges. Those who are indigent and cannot afford an attorney have the right to have one appointed to them. Most people, however, do not understand what the right to an attorney means, when this right attaches or who qualifies for a court-appointed lawyer.
If you are accused of a serious crime, it is essential that you retain the services of an experienced criminal defense lawyer to fight for your legal and constitutional rights throughout the criminal justice process. Contact our criminal defense attorney about your case today.
Federal And State Law
The right to counsel is a fundamental right of criminal defendants guaranteed by the Constitution. Many states also include this right in their constitutions, and some states provide a broader scope of the right to counsel than the federal constitution. However, defendants facing state felony charges are still entitled to counsel, even if the state constitution does not provide such a right, under the federal constitution via the 14th Amendment.
Attachment Of The Right Of Counsel
Criminal defendants are afforded the right to an attorney throughout every critical stage of a criminal proceeding once the right has “attached.” Under federal rules, the defendant’s right attaches once “adversary judicial proceedings” have been initiated against the defendant. This includes when the defendant has been charged with or indicted for a crime and during a preliminary hearing, information and arraignment.
Therefore, for the right to attach, the defendant must have been charged with a crime. It does not attach if the individual is merely suspected of committing a crime. It does not attach during the investigative stage prior to the filing of actual, formal charges — even if the individual is the only suspect. An arrest, without formal charges, also does not trigger the right to an attorney. This does not mean, however, that an individual being investigated for a crime cannot or should not hire an attorney on his or her own.
Once the right has attached, the state cannot interfere with the defendant’s right to seek counsel and has a duty to ensure the defendant’s right is honored. The right is not available in civil or administrative proceedings or during license suspension or revocation hearings.
For a criminal defendant to receive a court-appointed lawyer, the defendant cannot merely be unable to afford the representation of an attorney of his or her choosing, but must meet the definition of an indigent. The trial court has the authority to determine whether a defendant is indigent. Some jurisdictions have guidelines based on income that allow individuals meeting the criteria to be presumed indigent. Other jurisdictions, however, do not have any guidelines and must make the determination on a case-by-case basis.
In those states that determine indigence on a case-by-case basis, the court must look at the defendant’s total financial circumstances, including his or her income, assets, debts and other financial obligations before deciding if the defendant can afford to pay for an attorney. Thus, just because a defendant is unemployed does not guarantee he or she will be entitled to appointed counsel.
Defendants receiving court-appointed attorneys do not have the right to have an attorney of their choosing. If the court finds that the defendant is indigent, the court will assign a public defender to the defendant. The right to appointed counsel only extends to the trial and the first appeal of the trial court’s judgment.
Waiving The Right To An Attorney
Just as all criminal defendants have the right to an attorney, they also have the right to self-representation and can waive the right to an attorney. To waive this important right, criminal defendants must be able to prove to the judge that they are competent (have the mental capacity) to waive this right and that their waiver is knowing, intelligent and voluntary. The judge must make sure that the criminal defendant understands the disadvantages of self-representation before allowing the waiver.
Defendants considering representing themselves in a criminal trial should carefully consider the consequences of this action. Criminal defense attorneys have years of training and understand the intricate, and often confusing, workings of the law and criminal justice system. Given the complexities of criminal procedure and, more importantly, the severe consequences a criminal conviction carries, a criminal defense attorney is well suited to protect defendants’ legal rights and help them achieve the best possible outcome.
If you or a loved one has been arrested for a criminal offense, you have the right to an attorney. It is important to begin working with an attorney as soon as possible in the process, even if you have not been formally charged with a crime. To learn more about your legal rights, contact our team at Martens Law Office, P.C., today.
Classifications Of Crimes
Because the negative behavior regulated by criminal laws varies from relatively minor to devastatingly violent, crimes are classified into levels or degrees. The classification of a crime reflects its seriousness. The actual classification of a particular offense varies depending on the jurisdiction. If you are questioned about a crime or are accused of or arrested for a crime, you should consult with our law firm as early in the process as possible. We can explain the particular crime involved and its possible ramifications.
Under federal criminal law and the laws of about half of the states, including Idaho, a felony is a crime that is punishable by imprisonment of a year or more. Other states 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 either 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, trafficking in controlled substances, aggravated battery, kidnapping, attempted strangulation, and grand theft.
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. Indigent defendants who cannot afford to hire lawyers and are facing felony charges have the right to state-appointed criminal defense attorneys. In addition to social stigma, the long-term consequences could 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; immigration 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 always have the right to jury trials. A limited number of crimes, such as murder, can be punished by the death penalty. These crimes are often referred to as capital offenses.
A misdemeanor is a crime for which the maximum possible punishment is incarceration for less than a year. Some states have different classes of misdemeanors; for example, “petty offenses” are punishable by six months or less in jail, and “simple” or “minor” misdemeanors 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. 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, property forfeitures or incarceration in a jail for less than one year. There is no right to a grand jury for a misdemeanor. Indigent defendants are generally only eligible for 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.
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).
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, speak with an attorney at Martens Law Offices P.C. in Boise, Idaho, who can explain the potential punishment and ramifications.
Finding A Job After A Criminal Conviction
If you have been convicted of a crime, you may wonder if you will be able to find employment. Employers are becoming increasingly concerned about knowing whether applicants have criminal records. Part of this concern stems from large jury verdicts that have been rendered against employers for negligently hiring people with criminal histories who subsequently caused harm to others while on the job. Another concern for employers relates to whether they will have to disclose an employee’s criminal conviction to others. For example, if a company is trying to raise capital, it may need to make certain disclosures to a bank or insurance company. Will the company have to disclose that an employee has a criminal conviction for embezzlement or money laundering?
The laws about which criminal records an employer must or may access, what an employer may ask a potential employee about his or her criminal record and what the job applicant must reveal vary widely from state to state. If you have a criminal record and are looking for a job, our attorney and staff are knowledgeable in criminal law. We can help ensure that you go into the job search fully informed of your rights.
Conflicting Public Policies
On the one hand, the public wants to reintegrate into society people with criminal histories, rehabilitated individuals and gainfully employed individuals. A routine schedule and regular income lessen the likelihood that a person will commit a crime in the future, but a person with a criminal record may face prejudice in the hiring process. On the other hand, it is important to protect the public from contact with prior offenders who may have propensities to commit crimes in the future. For example, convicted sex offenders should not be hired for jobs in which they will be in contact with children or vulnerable adults.
How Much To Reveal
Depending on the state, an applicant may not have to reveal any or certain types of potentially damaging information, such as arrests not resulting in convictions or convictions for minor matters. Some states have procedures to judicially “erase” a criminal record. A criminal defense attorney can help determine whether you may be eligible to get a conviction sealed, expunged or otherwise legally minimized.
Tips For Workplace Reentry
Be honest. Employers are interested in employees they can trust, and almost all information on a job application can be checked and verified. Even if it may close the door to certain positions, telling the truth is the best way to get a job that the applicant can retain over the long haul. Remember, in some states not all convictions must be revealed nor can potential employers ask for certain information. Seek employment with someone you already know. Start the job search with family, friends and acquaintances that may be more likely to take a chance on hiring someone they know, despite a criminal record. Do not expect the first job after a conviction to be your ideal job. It is more important to get started somewhere and create a track record, since employers know that a good indicator of future job performance is past job performance. Consider temporary or entry-level positions to build your résumé. Understand where the employer is coming from. It has to balance its legal and ethical obligations to you, to its employees and to the public. Investigate employment services. Most states have public agencies that administer programs to help people find employment, sometimes specifically designed for those with criminal histories. Refrain from alcohol and drug use. Some employers require employee drug testing. Consider the nature of your past offense. Apply for jobs where that kind of offense is less likely to be an issue of concern.
Completing a prison term or paying a fine can be just part of the price of a criminal conviction. The conviction can also affect post-conviction employment opportunities, but some employers are willing to give those with criminal records chances in appropriate circumstances. One job — any job — can be the first step toward rebuilding a career and a life. Our lawyer at Martens Law Office, P.C.,. in Boise, Idaho, can talk to you about various options and offer advice on planning for your future.
Criminal Defense Resources
Equal Justice, USA
“Capital Defense Handbook For Defendants and Their Families” provides information and advice about death-penalty cases from the defense point of view.
ACLU: Prisoners’ Rights
Resource provided by the American Civil Liberties Union with information on national and state efforts to recognize and protect prisoner’s rights.
“Justice Denied” is a magazine devoted to helping people who have been wrongly convicted of crime in the US and internationally.
The Sentencing Project
A national leader in the development of alternative sentencing programs and in research and advocacy about criminal justice policy.
Prison Policy Initiative
The Prison Policy Initiative conducts research and advocacy about incarceration and criminal justice policy.
Bureau of Justice Statistics
Bureau of Justice Statistics is a bureau of the US Department of Justice – Office of Justice Programs. It provides statistics on crime, law enforcement, the justice system, corrections and related trends.
Death Penalty Links
Links to websites with important information and opinions about the death penalty worldwide.
The Innocence Project® of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University dedicated to gaining the freedom of wrongly convicted criminal defendants by using DNA testing methods and to advocating for reform of the criminal justice system in this regard.
Federal Sentencing Report
Congressional Research Service (CRS) report to Congress about the state of federal sentencing.
Criminal Law and Procedure
Articles about a variety of criminal law topics provided by Wex, a public-access legal dictionary and encyclopedia sponsored and hosted by the Legal Information Institute (LII) at the Cornell Law School.