Do I need an attorney?

By Gary E Junge

Most people do not intentionally break the law. Many people get caught in that gray area between right and wrong. You may drive after having a few drinks, you may touch or bump someone in a moment of anger, or you may take someone else’s property. Depending on the facts, each of these actions may or may not be illegal. If you are arrested, the State suspects you committed a crime. But, they still must prove that you committed the crime. If you’ve been charged with a crime, an attorney can navigate these gray areas.

In addition, an attorney can make sure the arrest was legal. Just as you must follow the law, so must the State follow the law. Our forefathers found that random stops, unreasonable search and seizures, unauthorized detention, and many other state actions violated our natural rights. The United States Constitution and the Delaware Constitution protect these rights. Just as the State will punish you for breaking the law, the courts will punish the State for violating your rights. This punishment usually takes the form of suppressing evidence or possibly even dismissing your case.

Take, for instance, a situation where you drive after having a few drinks. You believe you are within the legal limit, but are pulled over by a police officer and arrested for driving under the influence. At trial, the State must prove you were driving under the influence. Generally, the State must prove that the police officer had reasonable suspicion to stop you, probable cause to arrest you, and that proper procedures were followed when field sobriety tests were administered. Whether the police officer had reasonable suspicion to pull you over or probable cause to arrest you may be challenged. Improperly performed tests may lead to inaccurate results and therefore may not be admissible. Remember, the State is represented by an attorney who understands the nuances of the law. You can also be represented by an attorney who understands the nuances of the law.

In another instance, you get into an argument with someone and grab their shoulder or bump them. You may be arrested for offensive touching. Yet, you may not have intended to alarm the person. You may have been trying to emphasis a  point, or you may have intended to just walk away. You may be convinced you are guilty just  because you  did touch  them, but you may not be guilty. There are numerous elements to the charge, and the State must prove each one. Once again, the State will be represented by an attorney. Remember, you too can be represented by an attorney.

The same concept applies to theft. Did you intend to keep the property? Did you have permission from someone you assumed was the owner of the property? What was the property actually worth? The value of stolen goods determines whether you will be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony. Being convicted of a felony instead of a misdemeanor not only results in a higher fine or longer prison sentence, but also impacts other areas of your life such as your right to carry a weapon and even your right to vote. Again, the State will be represented by an attorney. Remember, you can be represented by an attorney also.

The law is constantly changing. When asking whether you need an attorney, remember this: The State has an attorney. A criminal defense attorney understands the law. While no attorney can guarantee the outcome of your case, he will fight for you. He will fight to ensure your constitutional rights have not been violated, he will force the State prove each element of the crime, and fight to make sure you are not convicted of a higher-level crime.

Being accused of a crime can be a scary and confusing proposition. There is no need to face the court system alone. If you’ve been accused of a crime, contact Schmittinger & Rodriguez for a consultation.