Criminal Law & Traffic Frequently Asked Questions

How should I select the criminal defense lawyer I want to represent me?

Before you hire an attorney, it is important that you sit down and take the time to get to know your attorney. You are not simply another case file. Your attorney should take the time listen to your specific concerns and needs.

Be prepared to ask a lot of tough questions. Ask about your attorney's experience with cases similar to yours. Find out if your attorney will personally work on your case, or whether he or she will delegate your case to an inexperienced associate or paralegal. Ask your attorney what is his or her trial experience? Your attorney should be experienced and knowledgeable about criminal law and the court process you may be facing

Be cautious of any attorney who promises specific results, particularly concerning serious criminal charges, just to win your business. A responsible and ethical attorney will explain what things they are going to do to help you, the options you may consider to resolve your case, and their experience with similar type cases, but they will never guarantee a specific outcome. More than anything follow your instincts and select an attorney who you feel will fight for you.

What exactly are Miranda rights?

Miranda warnings were mandated by the U.S. Supreme Court following the decision in the 1966 case of Miranda v. Arizona. They are warnings the police must give a criminal suspect who is in the custody of law enforcement before the police may ask questions about a possible crime or the suspect's possible involvement in a crime. Miranda warnings refer to the protection a criminal suspect has under the Fifth Amendment's right against self-incrimination during police interrogation while in custody. Those rights include the following:

•· You have the right to remain silent

•· Anything you do say can and will be used against you in court

•· You have the right to talk to a lawyer and have him or her present with you while you are being questioned

•· If you cannot afford to hire a lawyer, one will be appointed to represent you before any questioning, if you wish

•· You can decide at any time to exercise these rights and not answer any questions or make any statements

The police did not read me my rights when they arrested me. Can I get my charges dropped for this reason?

Many of us are under the mistaken belief that if the police officer does not read you your rights, your case gets automatically dismissed. This is not true. Generally, the police must have either an arrest warrant or probable cause to believe a crime was committed in order to arrest a suspect, but Miranda warnings are not a requirement for an arrest. However, any confessions or information a suspect provides, while in custody, may not be admissible in court unless a suspect is properly made aware of and waives his or her constitutional rights under Miranda.

What is the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor?

Whether a particular crime is considered a felony or misdemeanor varies from state to state. Generally, a misdemeanor offense is any crime for which the sentence is no more than one year in jail. A felony is any crime punishable by more than one year in prison. That's why misdemeanor crimes are considered less serious offenses than felonies in the criminal justice system.

What if the alleged victim in my case does not want to press charges? Does that mean my charges will be dropped?

This is a common question and the answer is no, not necessarily. A crime is considered a public wrong, not simply harm against another person, as occurs in civil disputes. Once a complaint is made, the police investigate the matter and charges are filed, the person who made the original accusation is not in charge of deciding whether the case goes forward or not. It is not uncommon for prosecutors to continue with a case even after the alleged victim asks that the charges be dropped. The fact an alleged victim or other witness is uncooperative, however, can be used by a skilled defense attorney, like Michael Taylor, in helping to fight the case.

Do I need a lawyer even for something like a traffic offense or something else minor?

A common misconception is that a traffic offense with a small fine is minor; therefore, the punishment will be minor as well. This is not always the case. Certain traffic offenses or city ordinance violations may have a long term effect on your driving, school, or employment record. Traffic convictions may result in having to pay higher insurance premiums. No matter what charges you are facing, you need an experienced attorney, like Michael Taylor, to recognize the potential consequences as well as the defenses you have available.

What should I do if I am arrested?

If you are arrested, do not say anything potentially incriminating to the police or consent to any search of your home, vehicle or person. The police officer will ask you questions and you should invoke your right to remain silent until you have spoken to a lawyer. The police officer should recognize your Fifth Amendment rights and stop all interrogation. Always be respectful and polite with the authorities even if you believe the arrest to be unfair or a mistake. Never attempt to physically resist an arrest or attempt to flee, as this may lead to even more charges filed against you. After you invoke your right to remain silent and request an attorney, contact Michael Taylor and the attorneys at The Law Offices of Taylor & Taylor, LLC, at 816-287-2456 to protect your rights.

If I refuse to give a statement to the police about my possible involvement in a crime, can I be arrested and charged because of my refusal to cooperate?

No. You cannot be arrested or charged with a crime simply because you have exercised your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent or consult with an attorney. Many times a law enforcement officer will use this approach to scare a suspect into waiving his or her Fifth Amendment rights and admit involvement in a crime. The police may also suggest that your admissions and cooperation will result in leniency in your case. This is also not true. Giving statements simply makes the prosecutor's job easier and means your arrest will more likely result in a conviction. Therefore, law enforcement officers are trained, and are often quite creative, in attempting to persuade a suspect to give a voluntary confession. Instead, ask to speak with a lawyer and contact Michael Taylor and the attorneys at The Law Offices of Taylor & Taylor, LLC, at 816-287-2456 to properly advise you.

What is likely to happen to me if I am convicted of a criminal charge?

The consequences for a criminal conviction vary from offense to offense and from state to state. With most felonies, punishment may range from years of probation to substantial prison time if you are convicted. Some felonies, including DWI's, some sex offenses, armed criminal action, and murder, have specific sentencing provisions that require a minimum amount of incarceration before you are eligible for probation or parole. The range of punishment for most misdemeanors varies from a modest fine to up to a year in jail. There may also be unforeseen consequences, such as the suspension or revocation of your driver's license when you are convicted of a misdemeanor. Michael Taylor and the attorneys at the Law Office of Taylor & Taylor, LLC will take the time to discuss all potential penalties and costs associated with a criminal conviction, and plan a defense strategy to protect you from these consequences.

I just got arrested for my first DWI in Missouri. Will my driver's license get suspended? For how long?

First, you have the right to request an administrative hearing to challenge the suspension. However, you must request the hearing within 15 days from the date you received written notice of the suspension; usually on or about the date of your arrest for driving while intoxicated. If you make a timely request for a hearing, your suspension is automatically stayed, pending the outcome of your hearing. If you win the administrative hearing, your license will not be suspended.

If you do not make a timely request for a hearing, or if the hearing officer upholds your suspension following a hearing, your license will be suspended for a period of 30 days from the effective date of your suspension, following by a 60 day period of restricted driving privilege, provided you have filed proof of insurance coverage with the Department of Revenue.

However, a recent change in Missouri law now allows you to avoid a license suspension, provided you install an ignition interlock device on any vehicle you drive. After a successful completion of a 90 day restricted driving privilege, with the ignition interlock device, plus completion of a substance abuse traffic offender program, and continued proof of insurance coverage, your driving privilege will be reinstated upon payment of a reinstatement fee.

I was pulled over for speeding, but then got arrested for having some potpourri in my car that I bought at a convenience store to smoke. Is potpourri illegal if I can buy it at a convenience store?

"Potpourri," also sold or known as "K2," "K3," "Spice," "fake weed," "herbal incense," "syn," and "head trip," is a brand of synthetic marijuana--products containing dried, shredded plant material and chemical additives--that may cause very serious side effects when smoked. Although you may still find packages of potpourri in gas stations, coffeehouses, smoke shops, or for purchase online, it is illegal to possess or sell synthetic marijuana, such as potpourri, in many states, including Missouri and Kansas.

Many years ago, I was convicted of felony stealing in Missouri. How can I get that felony off my record?

Currently in Missouri, there are only a few instances in which you may have a criminal record, including an arrest, guilty plea, trial, or conviction, expunged. These instances are generally limited to a few very specific misdemeanors and felony bad check charges. There is no expungement available for most felonies and misdemeanors in Missouri. However, if your felony stealing charge involved the fraudulent use of a credit or debit card, you may have grounds for an expungement. Please consider contacting Michael Taylor and the lawyers of The Law Offices of Taylor & Taylor, LLC, at 816-287-2456 for a Free Consultation regarding your specific circumstances.

Contact Us For Answers to Your Specific Questions

We hope you have found these frequently asked questions to be helpful. If you have any further questions about how a criminal attorney can help you protect your rights, do not hesitate to contact Michael Taylor and the lawyers of The Law Offices of Taylor & Taylor, LLC, at 816-287-2456 for a Free Consultation.