The information contained here is meant to provide general information regarding legal services and some commonly asked questions. Please keep in mind that every case is factually different. This information is not meant to be a substitute for consulting with an experienced criminal defense attorney regarding your case. Contact SPAULDING LAW PC for any specific questions regarding your case and Frank will be happy to help.
Should I hire an attorney or get a public defender?
Anyone accused of a crime is entitled to legal representation. Generally, public defenders are reserved for those that cannot afford to hire a private attorney.
Public Defenders are generally capable and diligent. Aside from cost, the largest difference between public and private representation, is caseload and time. Public Defenders have vastly larger caseloads than private attorneys, and consequently are unlikely to have the ability to spend the same time and energy on your case, as would a private attorney.
I’m accused of a crime, should I just plead out and get it over with?
No. Police make mistakes and sometimes bring charges that cannot be proven or sustained. You should never plead out without having the case independently evaluated by someone with experience in criminal defense. Accepting a plea offer can have great consequences that may persist for years. You should take the time to make sure you are aware of all of your options before taking steps that can have a negative impact on your future.
How much will it cost to hire Frank as my defense attorney?
It will depend on the particular circumstances of your case. This includes the nature and number of charges, the complexity of the issues, criminal history and what may be considered aggravating or mitigating factors. Generally misdemeanor charges cost between $2500 and $5000 while B and C felony charges can range between $5000 and $10000.
Your initial consultation is free of charge. During your initial consultation your case will be evaluated and you will not be responsible for any fees until you agree in writing.
Will I have to appear in Court?
Not necessarily. You may have to appear for your arraignment, to enter a change of plea if there is one, and of course for trial, should a trial be required. Beyond that there are many types of hearings that arise to deal with evidentiary, legal or scheduling matters. If you don’t wish to appear for these types of hearings you can file a waiver of appearance and let your attorney hire these matters for you. Of course, that’s up to you, you’ll always have the right to appear at any hearing pertaining to your case.
Should your matter proceed to trial, the decision of whether or not to testify is entirely yours. As your attorney I can advise you on the course I think you should take, and why, but the final decision will be yours.
How long will it take to resolve my case?
The length of time it takes to resolve a case can vary widely depending on the court’s schedule and the complexity of the case. You are entitled to a speedy trial and that generally means 120 days from the time you were charged. However, cases are often continued several times to give the parties an opportunity to investigate the facts or assess the strengths and weaknesses of a case.
Alternatively sometimes cases can be dismissed relatively quickly if there are problems in the prosecution. Problems can take a variety of forms from evidentiary to technical legal issues and this is why it is always a good idea to have your case evaluated by an attorney with the experience to be able to spot these issues.
What should I expect at the court proceedings?
Arraignment is your initial appearance before the court. It is here that you will be informed of the charges against you and given an opportunity to plead not guilty, guilty or no contest.
If you are charged with a crime, it is at arraignment that bail will be determined. The amount of your bail will depend on the nature of the charges, criminal history, ties to the community, and the likelihood of intimidating a witness or otherwise interfering in the administration of justice.
The Magistrate or Judge will then give you new dates on which to appear.
- Omnibus Hearing/Calendar Call
This hearing is to determine the progress of the case and to make sure it is going in the right direction. If there are evidentiary or discovery issues, motion hearings may be scheduled at this time. If not, the case may continued for a variety of reasons, in which case another Omnibus Hearing or Calendar Call date is set, set for a trial, or set for a change of plea hearing, in the event that there has been an agreement to resolve the charges between the parties.
The accused has a right to trial by jury, but if he/she chooses, they can waive that right and have a trial before a Judge alone; this is called a bench trial. If charged with a misdemeanor, the jury will consist of 6 people, and if a felony, 12 people.
At trial the prosecution has a burden of proof to establish every element of the crime charged beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecutor will attempt to do this by calling witnesses to testify and introducing evidence to the court. The defense has a right to confront and question all of the State’s witnesses, as well as bring witnesses and evidence of their own to establish the defense’s case.
After hearing all the testimony and arguments of the parties the Jury (or Judge in the case of a bench trial) will determine whether or not the prosecutor has proven the case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Once the accused has been found guilty of a crime, the case is set for sentencing. Each party has an opportunity to make arguments regarding the sentence. Ultimately the Judge will determine the sentence based a variety of factors. The Judge may be limited by statute in some cases but will certainly consider the severity of the crime, criminal history and aspects of punishment and rehabilitation as well as standards of the community.
What should I expect if I’m pulled over on suspicion of Driving Under the Influence or DUI?
A police officer must have probable cause to pull someone over. This can be as simple as a minor traffic infraction, or even an equipment violation. Once you’ve been pulled over it is always in your best interest to be polite and cooperative. You should give the officer your driver’s license and insurance information when asked, and if you have it available, your attorney’s business card.
Although you should be polite, you are not required to answer any questions and should request an attorney before answering any questions, including whether or not you have had anything to drink.
Next he will ask you to perform a series of ‘voluntary’ field sobriety tests. These tests are very difficult to pass even if you haven’t consumed alcohol. In Alaska your right to contact an attorney does not ‘attach’ until you’re at the police station, so it is unlikely you will be allowed to talk to your attorney while you’re in the field. Once you have been transported to the station, the police officer will attempt to take a more sophisticated breath sample than is available in the field, and it is in your best interest to voluntarily give this sample. To refuse to give a breath sample at the station can constitute a separate offense in Alaska. It is at the station that you should attempt to contact your attorney; the Police have an obligation under the law to allow you to contact your attorney as soon as practically possible.
This information is general is not meant to be legal advice. Please contact a licensed attorney before making decisions regarding your case.
© 2009 Frank Spaulding All Rights Reserved
Spaulding Law PC provides criminal defense representation in Alaska and Washington.
Frank Spaulding successfully defends clients accused of DUI, Domestic Violence, Assault, Burglary, Robbery,
Drug Possession, Sexual Assault, Homocide and other felony and misdemeanor crimes.
Criminal Defense Attorney Frank Spaulding works out of Fairbanks,
in Interior Alaska,
but accepts cases from all over Alaska and Washington, including Anchorage, Juneau, Ketchikan, Wasilla, Palmer, Nome,
Barrow and outlying bush communities to Seattle and Spokbane.