When you're facing serious charges and have a lot on the line, you can never ask too many questions. Darwyn is always happy to answer any questions you may have, but these are some of the questions he hears the most.
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How many innocent people are wrongly convicted each year?
Unfortunately, there is no way to know for sure how many innocent people are behind bars at any given time. Many guilty people vehemently proclaim their innocence while those falsely convicted are too scared or powerless to speak up. However, a relatively new joint project between the law schools at the University of Michigan and Northwestern Universty is making progress in gathering and publishing information about exonerations of wrongly-convicted individuals from the last 25 years. Using this data, they draw come conclusions about why people are falsely convicted in the first place.
Common Causes of Unjustified Convictions
Looking at data from 1,600 exonerations since 1989, the National Registry of Exonerations finds that most convictions are overturned for one or more of a small number of reasons. It logically follows that these factors are also probably the most common errors made during criminal trials:
- Perjury or False Accusation. A person falsely accuses the defendant of committing the crime either in sworn testimony or otherwise.
- Official Misconduct. Police or prosecutors significantly abuse their authority or the judicial process in a manner that contributes to a conviction.
- Mistaken Witness Identification. At least one witness mistakenly identifies the defendant as a person he or she saw commit the crime.
- False or Misleading Forensic Evidence. The conviction is based at least in part on forensic information that was caused by errors in forensic testing, based on unreliable or unproven methods, or fraudulent.
- False Confessions. The defendant makes a false statement to authorities which was treated as a confession; the authorities claim that the defendant made such a statement but the defendant denies it; or the defendant makes a statement that is not an admission of guilt, but is misinterpreted as such by the authorities.
Regrettably, other factors can also lead to a false conviction depending on the circumstances of your individual case. This is why it is important to build a strong defense, and have someone supporting you throughout the case. Contact us today and see how we can help you avoid a wrongful conviction. Trust us—even if you’re charged with a minor offense, you don’t want to deal with the consequences of a conviction. Contact us now. You’ll be glad you did!
Could I still be sent to jail even if I had a good reason for violating my probation?
Yes. Any action that violates the terms of your probation can potentially lead to a jail sentence. However, if you are able to refute the charge, you may not be penalized for violating probation and may be allowed to continue on probation without jail time. Here are a few common defenses used for probation violation:
- No violation. If you have been accused of probation violation, you should consider the terms of your probation carefully to make sure that a violation has taken place. For example, if your probation officer changed the date of your meeting without giving you proper notification, you may be able to convince the judge that you were acting within the bounds of your probation.
- Accidental violation. Offenders often suffer what is known as a technical violation, where the rules of probation are broken unintentionally. Offenders may mistakenly think that their probation has already ended, or were in an accident and missed a meeting with an officer because they were in the hospital.
- Reasonable violation. In some cases, offenders may be justified in breaking the rules of their probation. Good reasons for probation violation include a family emergency, personal danger, or another reason that gave the offender little choice but to leave town. Depending on the circumstances, the parole board may choose to extend your probation instead of sending you to jail.
How Should I Answer the Charges?
As you face the parole board, you will be asked if you admit or deny that you violated your probation. It is vital that you consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney before answering that question. The legal team at the Easley Law Firm can help you determine the next steps to make in your case. Call us today at (888) 386-3898, or learn more about your options in our free guide, The Criminal Legal Process In Virginia.
What are the advantages of agreeing to a plea bargain?
You are facing a criminal charge and a potentially lengthy trial. There’s a good chance you will get jail time, costly fines, a lengthy probation, and a black mark on your record. Is there any way to make all of this go away? There may be with a plea bargain.
Plea bargaining is the act of negotiating with the prosecution before you go into court. Your attorney or the attorney for the prosecution may offer the plea, and if both sides agree, they will present it to the judge, who can decide if it is acceptable. Most plea bargains involve the defendant admitting guilt in exchange for a lesser charge or less punishment.
The Pros of Plea Bargaining
Although you should always discuss your particular situation with your lawyer before agreeing to a plea bargain, these plea deals are can be advantageous for the following reasons:
- Lesser charges. Prosecutors often offer lesser charges than what the defendant is facing if they can be guaranteed a guilty plea. Taking a plea bargain deal means the defendant won’t have to go to court and risk receiving a harsher penalty from the judge.
- Money saved. Some trials can go on for months. Along with court costs, defendants also have to pay lawyers’ fees during these lengthy trials. When both sides agree to a plea bargain, the matter is settled quickly, which saves the defendant time and money.
- A better-looking record. Accepting a plea bargain typically results in lesser charges, which looks better on a record than the charges you may receive if you go to trial. This may help you with gaining employment in the future, and if you happen to get in trouble with the law again.
Look to Us for Advice
The Easley Law Firm wants to discuss your situation with you and help you decide if a plea bargain is right for you. We have helped many defendants in the Fairfax area with their cases, and may be able to do the same for you.
How do I know who the “right” criminal defense attorney is?
When you find yourself in trouble with the law, you need the help of a skilled criminal defense attorney. Unless you’ve hired one before, you may not know what to look for. Not all lawyers are the same, and some have skills on their side that can benefit you.
How Can You Tell If You Have Found Your Attorney?
Whether you were pulled over on I-95 for a DUI, or were allegedly in violation of your probation, you’ll need the help of an attorney to increase your chances of getting the outcome you desire. Here’s what to look for:
- An attorney who has trial experience. You likely wouldn’t hire a doctor who has never performed surgery before to operate on you. Why would you want to hire an attorney who has never been to trial to defend you? You can be sure the prosecution will have a skilled and experienced attorney coming after you, so you want to make sure your attorney is well-equipped to handle the job. If not, you could end up losing and getting an undesirable outcome.
- An attorney who makes time for you. One of the advantages of hiring a private attorney is having him at your disposal. If he doesn’t call you back or find a chance to meet with you within a short time period, he likely doesn’t have enough time to give you all the help you will require with your case. Look for a lawyer who makes your needs a top priority.
- An attorney who is respectful. The lawyer you hire should never speak down to you, act rudely, or seem like he’s doing you a favor. You are paying for his services, which means he works for you, not the other way around. If your attorney doesn’t make you feel comfortable right from the start, things likely won’t get better and it is time to find someone else.
We Want to Meet With You
The Easley Law Firm takes pride in providing the people of Fairfax with the knowledge and experience they need to win their case. Contact us today to learn how we may be able to help you.
What are the penalties for violating my probation?
As part of your probation, you are supposed to find a good job and keep it. You were successful and have enjoyed your job for the past six months.
Lately, a series of unfortunate events have prevented you from making it to work. First it was because your car broke down on I-495 and you couldn’t find alternate transportation. Then, it was when your daughter was so sick you had to take her to Inova’s Children Hospital. And after a few other missed days, your boss said he had to let you go.
Violating Your Probation
You begged your boss to let you keep your job, but he said his hands were tied. You know this is a violation of your probation, and are extremely anxious and stressed out because of it. Now you’re wondering what kind of charges you are facing. Here a few possible outcomes:
- A warning. All violation probations don’t send you straight to jail. Your probation officer may only give you a warning for going against the terms of your probation, particularly if he feels the termination was unwarranted.
- Additional probation. The judge may decide that you should have additional time added onto your probation for the violation.
- Fines. A consequence of the violation is often additional fines on top of what you may already owe either in fines or court costs.
- Jail time. The judge may feel like you need to spend a few days in jail for your violation. Once you are out, he may have you finish out the rest of your probation. He could also revoke or cancel your probation and send you to jail for the maximum amount of time allowed by law.
We May Be Able to Help
If have been accused of violating your probation, contact the Easley Law Firm today. We may be able to prove your innocence or help you receive a more desirable outcome than you would otherwise.
Am I able to represent myself in court?
You were headed down I-295 on your way home from a friend’s house when a police officer pulled you over. After participating in a field sobriety test and breathing into a breath analysis machine, the officer arrested you for driving while intoxicated (DUI).
Your trial date is quickly approaching and you haven’t been in contact with an attorney or a public defender. You can’t afford the expense of a lawyer and you think you’re capable of defending yourself, so you plan on giving it a try.
Are You Able to Defend Yourself?
According to the ruling in the Faretta v. California case in 1975, defendants have the legal right to act as their own representation. Knowing this, you walked into court and told the judge your plans to defend yourself. Before he will let you, however, he has to ensure you are mentally competent, and here’s how he will decide:
- Your age. If the judge believes you are too young to take on such a responsibility, or too far up in age to stand trial, he likely won’t allow you to represent yourself.
- Your familiarity with English. If English isn’t your primary language, the judge will want to know how fluent you are. If you aren’t able to understand what is going on because of a language barrier, the judge will likely ask that you hire a lawyer.
- Your level of education. The judge wants to get an idea of how well educated you are and will determine that by how much schooling you’ve received.
- The seriousness of the crime. Self-representation is typically permitted in less serious cases. If you’re facing something bigger, however, you’ll likely have to hire representation.
The Easley Law Firm Is on Your Side
We can give you the representation you want. With us, you can take the lead, and we will attempt to get you the outcome you desire. Contact us today to learn how.
Can I go to jail for being caught in possession of marijuana?
In Virginia, it is unlawful for any person to knowingly or intentionally possess marijuana. The only way possession is legal is if the marijuana was obtained directly from, or pursuant to, a valid prescription or order of a professional practitioner.
A first offense for possession of marijuana is an unclassified misdemeanor which carries up to 30 days confinement in jail and a fine up to $500, either or both. A first offender will likely qualify for a diversion program whereby, upon compliance with all terms of probation, including community service, drug education and treatment, loss of driving privileges and general good behavior, the charge will be dismissed.
A second or subsequent offense is a Class 1 misdemeanor and carries up to 12 months incarceration and a fine up to $2,500, either or both. All marijuana convictions require a six month loss of driving privileges (restricted privileges may be granted by the court).