Hartford’s Most Dedicated Criminal Defense Attorneys
Successfully Resolving Criminal Defense Cases in the Greater Hartford Community for 15+ Years
We know the criminal defense process better than anyone else. If you need representation, look no further than our legal team. We’re ready to fight for you and work tirelessly to protect your rights.
Don’t Speak to Anyone Before You Speak to a Lawyer
We’re ready to handle your criminal defense case including but not limited to the following case categories:
- DWI / DUI
- Domestic Violence
- Sex Crimes
- Drug Crimes
The Criminal Defense Process
The process of criminal justice varies on a state-by-state basis, and certain offenses may be subject to federal processes of prosecution. In general, however, a criminal case can be expected to move through the courts in a predictable series of stages.
The criminal defense process can be simplified into the following trial stages:
Stop, Search, Arrest, Booking, Arraignment, Pre-Trial, Trial, and Appeal.
Law enforcement can legally stop any individual for questioning under probable cause laws. Though a stop is not an arrest, an officer may pose questions, which an individual can refuse to answer.
Additionally, a person can be frisked during a stop if the officer believes the individual possesses contraband, is armed, or poses the risk of acting in a dangerous or harmful manner. In a pat down search such as this, the officers are not allowed to reach into pockets, unless they identify objects by plain feel, and which may be reasonably presumed to be some kind of contraband.
Search warrants are court-issued documents whose orders allow police to search a specific property or place, and to do so for specific items only. In order to receive a search warrant, the police officer requesting access must demonstrate probable cause and present a reasonable body of evidence that more likely than not indicates that criminal activity has taken place. Probable cause means there is strong reason to believe that specific items related to criminal activity are present in a given location, and that there is a relative degree of certainty these items will be found on the premises during the search.
In some instances, searches may be performed legally without a search warrant per se, including:
- Consent searches, in which an individual allows (consents to) a search of themselves, their vehicle, or their residence. Consent is never required to be given by individuals to law enforcement for these kinds of searches.
- Automobile searches, which involve arrest of an individual inside a vehicle and the ensuing search inside the vehicle. To perform search of the entire vehicle, including locked glove compartments or trunk, probable cause is needed.
- Searches incident to arrest, which is when law enforcement officers search a person’s body and clothing for hazardous or illegal items when making valid arrests.
- Plain view, which is when something is within the plain view of an officer, who has the right to be in the position to view this illegal object.
- Exigent circumstances, which are searches that may be done if the events within a given setting present themselves in a way that suggests immediate action should be taken. Exigent circumstances may result in an impromptu search, for example, if the destruction of evidence is likely to occur.
For a law enforcement official to arrest an individual, probable cause must exist. In essence, police officers must have a reason to believe that a crime was, or is in the process of, being committed and the person being arrested perpetrated the crime. In some cases, an arrest warrant is not necessary. In the event that an arrest is going to occur within a person’s home, a warrant would be required.
Following arrest, the Constitution offers a number of rights to protect the arrested individual. Two integral rights include the right to remain silent and the right to have an attorney. Following an arrest, an individual does not have to say anything to police or detectives, until an attorney is present. Also, an opportunity to contact an attorney (or to have one appointed) must be provided to the arrested individual.
Following a landmark Supreme Court case, Miranda v. Arizona, the universally endowed rights of persons being placed under arrest were formally established. Under these so-called “Miranda Laws,” individuals placed in police custody are guaranteed to receive certain Constitutional rights, which must be clearly outlined by arresting law enforcement officers, including:
- Right to remain silent
- Right to an attorney during questioning
- Right to a court-appointed attorney, if an individual cannot afford one
Contrary to some misnomers, Miranda rights do not have to be explained until an individual is actually taken under police custody. In the event that a law enforcement agent questions an individual prior to taking them into full custody, the information relayed in this pre-detainment period may be used in a court of law as well.
Following an arrest, law enforcement will transport an individual to a station for the booking process. During the booking process, fingerprinting, questioning, searches, and photographs will be requested of the arrested individual. Additionally, all property on an individual will be confiscated, recorded, and stored at the station.
Appointment of an Attorney
In the event one cannot afford an attorney, a court appointed attorney will be provided to defend this individual. This person is generally a public defender.
Following the appointment of an attorney, an individual may request a substitute attorney under certain conditions. Certain conditions for replacement of public defender include:
- Reason to believe that the attorney is not providing effective assistance
- Conflict of interest between the person and the attorney
- Attorney becomes ill and cannot continue to the representation
When a clerk of the court files a complaint, a person is formally charged with given offenses. In some instances, even a law enforcement officer or private citizen can file complaints.
Routinely, the courts will accept officer complaints made under oath. For private citizens making a complaint, a clerk’s hearing must occur to show cause. In this hearing, the accused individual can hear complaints, as well as oppose the issuance of a complaint.
Certain instances are exempt from the hearing requirement, such as threat of imminent bodily injury or risk of flight from the state.
Once the charges have been filed, arraignment, bail trial and appeals follow.
Following the first appearance following a complaint, an arraignment occurs. Generally, the arraignment occurs within the twenty-four hours following an arrest. During an arraignment, pleas to a given charge are entered by defendants, which may include:
- “Mute” plea: A person may “stand mute” instead of making a plea. The court will then enter a plea of not guilty.
- No contest plea: A “no contest” or “nolo contendere” may be entered with the permission of the court. This is essentially the same as a guilty plea, with the exception that, unlike guilty plea, a “nolo contendere” plea usually cannot later be used against the person in a civil lawsuit. A sentence is imposed.
- Guilty plea: This is a full admission to the facts of the crime and the fact that the person pleading is the one who committed that crime. Following a guilty plea, the judge imposes sentence.
- Not guilty plea: This states that the person did not commit the crime as accused. After a not guilty plea, a pre-trial date will be set.
At the time of the arraignment, the courts will also set the amount of bail, refuse bail to the defendant, or release an individual on their own recognizance.
In the course of criminal trials, bail is the amount of money, property, or other collateral utilized to insure the person accused will arrive at later criminal court proceedings. Bail may be paid via cash or the commitment of property, if allowed by the courts.
Under laws provided for by the United States Constitution and the Sixth Amendment, every individual has a right to a speedy trial.
Generally, these rights require that a trial be held within a reasonable period of time following being charged with a crime. In many instances, individuals may waive this right, in order to more adequately prepare for a case defense.
Pre-Trial Conference and Hearing
The accused individual must attend these proceedings, although no testimony or formal proceedings actually take place. During the pre-trial conference, prosecutors may offer a plea bargain, or attempt to avoid trial by offering pleas for lesser crimes in exchange for responsibility in some aspect of a given charge or crime.
During the conference, both entities will discuss details of a trial, including estimations on length and other items. During this time period, as well, specific motions may be scheduled or heard by both sides.
Following a criminal arrest, individuals may have a right to trial by jury. The jury, which consists of six or twelve members, must unanimously deliver a verdict of guilty or not guilty.
Individuals may, however, waive their right to trial by jury through a guilty plea, or by voluntarily electing to undergo a bench trial, which refers to a trial in front of a judge, exclusively; no other jury members or trial court officials are present. In capital cases, a jury must try a defendant, regardless of whether or not they may wish to undergo a bench trial.
Persons found guilty by a judge or jury are allowed to appeal the verdict. Depending on the crime, the process is different; however, there are always time limitations within which an appeal must be filed.
Generally, defendants have thirty (30) days following a verdict to appeal the decision, and the appeal must be based on reasonable, legally approved parameters. An unfavorable verdict alone is not sufficient for the purposes of a verdict appeal. Grounds for appealing a case, as these parameters are so called, can be made under the statement of one or more legal errors.
Legal errors may include:
- Errors in the judge’s instructions to the jury
- Insufficient evidence supporting a guilty verdict
- Inadmissible evidence being allowed into the courtroom, including evidence obtained as a violation of Constitutional rights
- Juror misconduct
- Appearance of new evidence surrounding the case
Sealing of Records
For certain crimes and individuals, criminal records may be “sealed.” In essence, sealing a criminal record prevents records from being obtained, except in limited circumstances, such as during future criminal cases against a given individual.
Individuals may prove eligible to have their records sealed if:
- A pardon has been issued
- A record is a juvenile record, and is at least three (3) years old
- Ten (10) to Fifteen (15) years have elapsed since conviction, which is dependent on the crime
- Charges were dismissed or individual was found not guilty
If eligible, individuals may file written requests to have their records sealed. In certain circumstances, hearings before a judge might be necessary.
The Law Firm that Speaks Your Language
The Law Office of Michael L. Chambers, Jr. is dedicated to and investing in the Hartford community. We are now located on 2 Congress Street #2C, right in the heart of Hartford and we speak both English and Spanish fluently. To make things easier for you, we provide all of our clients with a secured tablet to ensure safe and paperless communication.
We’re Experts in Personal Injury, Real Estate Law and Criminal Defense
Our diverse legal team has years of experience working both in and out of Hartford, New Britain, Enfield, Manchester, Rockville, and New Haven courtrooms with clients of all backgrounds, ethnicities and ages. We focus on personal injury, real estate law and criminal defense, but we have handled cases of all types. We’re happy to discuss your case with you to see if we’re a fit.