February 28, 2017
Appearing as a defendant in criminal court can be a daunting experience for a person charged with a criminal offense. Not only are you faced with a serious criminal charge, you are thrown into a criminal justice system that may be completely foreign to you.
Your background and your particular circumstances surrounding your charge will likely be different from all other defendants. While you focus on the events that led to you walking through those courthouse doors, there is a whole hidden world of procedural issues that control, sway, and impact the outcome of your case.
This is why you should be prepared, and why we recommend that you retain a qualified attorney with the experience and knowledge necessary to navigate the system for you. Beyond just negotiating or communicating with District Attorneys and arresting officers, your attorney’s job is to explain and advise you on the various paths your case could take, and the procedural rules that limit or expand your options.
This post highlights a few of these procedural nuances that an experienced criminal defense attorney can help you navigate. For example, there are some important differences between District Court and Superior Court criminal proceedings. If convicted in District Court, you have an automatic right to appeal your case to Superior Court. In District court, your case will be decided by a Judge based on whatever evidence the District Attorney has to support the charge against you. In Superior Court, you have a right to a jury trial. A jury of your peers will then determine your guilt or innocence. Even in Superior Court, however, the Judge has the ultimate say in sentencing.
Accepting a plea bargain in District Court typically means you have pled guilty or no contest to at least one charge in exchange for either a reduction in your initial criminal charge or a dismissal of other charges against you. It is important for a criminal defendant to know that you have the right to appeal (even after a plea) to Superior Court. However, it is also important to know that an appeal after a plea means all original charges are fair game for your Superior Court trial.
Hiring a competent criminal defense attorney will provide you with insights such as: determining valid defenses and the value of a trial vs. a plea deal, ensuring you meet filing and appeal deadlines, presenting all relevant and mitigating evidence at the sentencing phase, and effectively communicating with you, the D.A., the charging officer, and the judge.
Our attorneys have invaluable years of experience in the North Carolina criminal justice system. We provide criminal defense services across the state including western North Carolina counties of Polk, Transylvania, Henderson, Buncombe, and beyond. Please call to schedule an appointment with a defense attorney in your area.