Mount Pleasant Criminal Law Attorneys
These are the basic definitions, but each should be discussed with an skilled Mount Pleasant lawyer, like those at O’Neil & Lynch, P.C.
Misdemeanor — This is a criminal charge that generally carries a maximum punishment of one year or less in a county jail. The most common types of misdemeanors are:
- Drunk driving (now called Operating While Intoxicated (OWI))
- Retail fraud (shoplifting)
- Minor in Possession of Alcohol (MIP)
- Domestic violence
- Assault and battery
- Aggravated assault
High Court Misdemeanor — This is a criminal offense that is generally punishable by up to two years in prison. Although labeled a misdemeanor, it is treated like a felony for procedural matters.
Felony — This is a criminal charge that is punishable by imprisonment in the Department of Corrections (prison). Felonies can be punishable from one year to mandatory life in prison.
Complaint/Information — This is the written document that advises the defendant what the charge is and the maximum penalty.
Arraignment — This is the first hearing before the Court. Three issues are addressed by the Court:
- The defendant’s plea
- Attorney representation
- Pretrial release (bond)
It is best to have an attorney and family present, to enhance the likelihood of the best possible bond.
Pretrial/Scheduling Conference/Settlement Conference — These phrases represent a meeting, usually done informally and in the judge’s chambers, between the defense attorney, the prosecutor and judge. At this meeting, several issues are discussed, but most importantly: future scheduling, including trial and settlement possibilities.
Preliminary Examination — Every defendant charged with a felony in state court is entitled, by right, to a preliminary examination within 14 days of the initial arraignment. At the preliminary examination, the prosecution must prove two things, in order for the charge to continue:
- Probable cause that a crime has been committed
- Probable cause to believe that the Defendant committed the crime.
Probable cause is a very easy standard for the prosecution to satisfy. Basically, the preliminary examination is a procedure to insure the government has some evidence against the defendant, and that the charges are not motivated by illegal reasons. It is an important hearing for the defense, because the defense attorney can cross-examine the prosecution’s witnesses and examine the strengths and weaknesses of the government’s case, with witnesses under oath, while simultaneously, not revealing any defense.
Pretrial Release — Also called bond. There are four types of bonds:
- Personal Recognizance: No money has to be posted
- Cash: Defendant must pay cash to be released
- 10 percent: Defendant must pay 10% of the bond set by the Court
- Surety: Defendant must have a surety (bondsman or insurance company) vouch for the money. The bonding agency will charge an up-front fee for this service, as well as generally requiring additional collateral.
Trial — Conducted by the judge. However, the verdict may be decided by a judge or a jury at defendant’s request. A misdemeanor jury is decided by six jurors; a felony is decided by 12 The verdict must be unanimous.