If you or someone close to you has been arrested, there are immediate steps that you should take:
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.
Determine the Nature of the Charge
Ask if the charge is for a misdemeanor or a felony. A felony will require you to be held in police custody until you appear in court, while a misdemeanor usually allows for immediate bond. Also, find out when your next court date is and, if possible, which judge will be presiding over your case.
Seek legal help immediately, taking care to find an attorney who is experienced in criminal law.
Do not speak to anyone except your attorney, as everything you say can and will be used against you. This includes cellmates, lovers, friends, parents, siblings, and neighbors. By talking with anyone besides your lawyer, you risk turning them into potential witnesses, which will complicate the case.
Visit the Birdsall Law Website at www.birdsall-law.com for more information.
Inserted in the budget recently signed by Governor Doyle was a little noticed provision that significantly expanded the statutory authority of judges to expunge the records of those convicted of certain offenses. Prior law only allowed those under 21 who had been convicted of a misdemeanor to have their records cleared. The new provision allows those convicted of H and I felonies (except violent offenses) who are under 25 to have the court record expunged. This is a significant step in the right direction as far too many individuals have had their lives thrown off track by some unfortunate youthful behavior. Since many of these low level felonies (the full range is A-I) are minor drug offenses, the legislature was correct to make this change. However, more needs to be done since this does nothing to change the fact that everyone – employers, landlords, school offiicials – can still see the case on CCAP. Though courts actually have the inherent powers to order that this electronic record be removed also, the CCAP committee’s position is that nothing is removed – ever! Judges have generally cow-towed to this unofficial mandate. It is time to change this very damaging reality for those that have either an expungement order or their cases dismissed.