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I Got Arrested for a Misdemeanor…What’s Next?

by | Mar 23, 2019 | Criminal Defense, Firm News

Many people think that a misdemeanor is not much more than an expensive traffic ticket. But a misdemeanor means up to a year in jail, and any time behind bars can cause a brain injury. As soon as the cell doors close, stress hormone production increases by about 30 percent. Prolonged exposure to stress hormones causes a number of ill effects. Just the possibility of confinement has similar effects, but they are not nearly as drastic.

The Sixth Amendment guarantees the right to counsel. But some Wright County judges only appoint Buffalo criminal defense lawyers for people who are already in jail. Even if a court-appointed lawyer or a public defender, it’s usually best to hire your own Buffalo criminal defense lawyer. This move has nothing to do with competence. Public assistance attorneys are usually at the top of the profession. It’s a matter of accessibility, the relationship you have with your lawyer, and some other intangible items.

Procedural Matters in Misdemeanors

Procedurally, misdemeanors are basically the same as felonies. Police officers must follow the same rules. Procedural defenses are usually quite effective in all criminal cases. If a Buffalo criminal defense lawyer establishes a prior procedural defect, the judge usually has no choice but to throw the case out of court. No one can go back in time and fix mistakes that have already happened. Generally, these defenses involve an issue with the search and seizure.

The Fourth Amendment contains the search warrant requirement. In most cases, these warrants rely heavily on informer’s tips. To evaluate this information, Wright County judges look at a number of factors, including:

  • Specificity: A general tip like “there’s a drug house on the corner of Fifth and Main” might be enough for a surveillance warrant, but it’s nowhere near enough for a search warrant. A street address is better, but still legally shaky. Only a warrant that designates both the type of drug and the location in the house easily passes muster.
  • Source: This analysis is similar. Anonymous tips are almost inherently unreliable. If the tipster doesn’t vouch for the information, why should a judge accept it as true? Police officer tips, like an APB, are almost always reliable. Everything else is somewhere in the middle.
  • Informer’s Track Record: This factor is closely related to the “source” factor. If the informer provided good information before, the new information is probably at least good enough for probable cause. A related factor is how much money or favorable treatment the informer receives. Police snitches rarely work for free.

Prosecutors cannot work backward. They cannot argue that since the cops found drugs, the tip must have been reliable. Each tip stands or falls on its own merits.

Other cases hinge on search warrant exceptions. If there were some extraordinary circumstances, officers do not need to stop what they are doing and obtain warrants. Consent is probably the most common search warrant exception. If the vehicle or other property owner says police can “have a look around,” they have free reign to look wherever they want.

The plain view exception comes up quite a bit as well. If officers pull over vehicles, they can seize any contraband they find in plain view. Officers must be legally at that place at that time, and they cannot use artificial vision aids, like binoculars or heat sensors, to bring objects into plain view.

How a Buffalo Criminal Defense Lawyer Prepares for Trial

With procedural matters out of the way, a Buffalo criminal defense lawyer can focus on the trial. Lack of evidence is usually the most effective defense, followed closely by an affirmative defense.

Prosecutors must prove every element of a misdemeanor beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s the highest standard in Minnesota law. In the Gopher State, this phrase has no set definition. But it generally means proof of such an overwhelming nature that it overcomes the presumption of innocence and leaves no room for “but waits” or “what ifs.”

A Buffalo criminal defense attorney can challenge the state’s proof by cross-examining witnesses, objecting to evidence, and making compelling arguments to the judge and jury. So, in these cases, the defendant does not have to testify.

On the other hand, if the defendant has an affirmative defense, like self-defense, the defendant has the burden of proof, albeit at a lower level than reasonable doubt. Therefore, in these situations, the defendant frequently must testify. That’s a very risky legal strategy, but it often pays off.

Resolving a Wright County Misdemeanor

Many of these cases do not go to trial at all. In fact, plea bargains resolve over 90 percent of the misdemeanors in Wright County. These out-of-court settlements usually involve a lesser sentence and/or reduced charges. For example, a Buffalo criminal defense lawyer might engineer a plea to simple battery as opposed to a trial on a domestic battery charge. Simple battery, while still a misdemeanor, does not have as many collateral consequences as domestic battery.

If the defendant has a defense, as outlined above, a favorable plea is more likely. In these cases, prosecutors are even less willing to roll the dice at trial.

Connect with Savvy Attorneys

Misdemeanor charges are serious, but they are not the end of the world. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo criminal defense lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.