WHAT IT IS
For most of us, being charged with a crime is something we never expected. The shock of a criminal charge gives way to the anxiety of court hearings and legal consequences. The possibilities of jail and punishment, probation and fines cause additional stress.
What To Expect
Your case will take time to do right. At some point following the citation or arrest, you will feel the urge to move quickly. You will want to get the case–this threat to your freedom and finances–over with. It’s natural to want to rip the bandaid off.
As your counselor, I will protect you from this impulse. You will live with the choices you make now for a very long time. As your attorney, my job is to get police reports, review any videos, analyze the relevant case law, hire experts and investigators as needed, and ensure you get through this process with the minimum disruption to your life.
Consequences – Misdemeanors vs. Felonies
Misdemeanors. In Wyoming, a misdemeanor is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. Interestingly, drug possession misdemeanors carry a higher maximum penalty (12 months jail and $1000 fine), than a DUI (6 months jail and $750 fine). In my experience, misdemeanors involving thefts or assaults can result in jail time. Misdemeanors involving drug possession are less likely to result in jail time, but more likely to result in lengthy drug treatment and probation terms. Of course, this all varies with County, Prosecutor and Judge. The facts of your case matter quite a bit.
Felonies. Even being charged with a felony is life-changing. All felonies carry with them the possibility of prison time. The Court is much more likely to impose a period of incarceration. The fines are much higher, and the probation can last for 5 years following release from custody. A felony results in the loss of voting rights, gun rights, and certain federal benefits. It makes obtaining a job much harder. When you are charged with a felony, you have quite a bit on the line.
Typically a felony case will be better investigated (more experienced officers given more time and resources for the investigation), better prosecuted (more attention and resources from the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office), and will have the Court’s full attention. The quality of your attorney and the resources you marshal will make a difference in your outcome.
You have a right to a speedy trial. That means a trial within 6 months of your entry of not guilty plea or arraignment. However, be advised that case law has eroded the speedy trial right (you generally won’t get your case dismissed if it takes longer than 6 months) and that often times it’s in your best interest to waive your speedy trial right. For those reasons, felonies commonly take longer to resolve.
For a typical misdemeanor in Teton County, you might see a timeline like the following:
- Day 1. Arrest or Citation.
- Day 10. Entry of Not Guilty Plea (starts 180-day speedy trial clock).
- Day 15. Judge issues Case Management Order.
- Day 45. Prosecutor supposed to provide complete discovery (police reports, videos, test results, etc.)
- Day 60. Defense deadline to submit motions to suppress or dismiss.
- Day 90-120 Final Pretrial Conference.
- Day 120-145 Trial.
A word of caution. Don’t take this timeline as gospel. For felonies and federal cases, the timeline is different.
If we make a reasoned judgment to cut a deal, we can do that at anytime. These deadlines can and do move. For example, in cases involving a blood test performed at the state crime lab in Cheyenne, it can take 60 days or more to get a blood test result. Or it can take 10 days. It depends. If we do our own investigation, we may request time for that to happen.
For criminal cases, I typically work on a flat fee. That means you make one payment up front. That payment goes into my trust account. When I start the case, I take the first half out of the trust account. When I finish, I take the second half. If it goes to trial, typically there is a second flat fee.
For misdemeanors, I break the case into two phases:
- Arrest to pretrial conference. Most cases are resolved at or before the pretrial conference.
- Pretrial conference to trial. I typically charge a second flat fee to prepare for and go to trial.
For felonies, I will evaluate the case and decide how to break it into phases. There may be as many as four phases. It is difficult to quote an appropriate flat fee for a felony without knowing the details.
What else? I don’t nickel and dime you with copying fees, postage, or administrative costs. Those are included in the flat fee. However, if there are special costs associated with your case, such as hiring a private investigator, or obtaining an independent test, you are responsible for those costs. I don’t mark them up. If there are fines or bail, you’re responsible for that.
Local Court System
I believe there is great value in having experience with the particular criminal justice system your case is in. That means, it’s important to know how the judge approaches certain legal issues and what they’re likely to do at a sentencing. Having history and credibility with the prosecutors helps when advocating for my clients. I also do my best to be familiar with individuals officers involved in a case, and know their style as investigators. Knowing the officers is more aspirational; there is turnover within the agencies, and they are bigger organizations. Still, I do my best to know the detectives, investigators, and officers on traffic duty. Over time, patterns and blind spots emerge that you can take advantage of.
In most counties in Wyoming, there is only one judge at each level of jurisdiction. There are district court judges, who hear felonies, and circuit court judges, who hear misdemeanors and do preliminary hearings for felonies. The Town of Jackson has a municipal judge, who hears municipal offenses. The National Parks have a federal magistrate judge who hears misdemeanors.
“Alex is an excellent Lawyer. He is knowledgeable about his subjects, will research your case, and get good results. I don’t live in Wyoming, so I was able to call in to court while Alex was there representing me. It was a long and hard battle, but in the end my case was dropped. Alex kept me informed about proceeding and was excellent with communications. Would highly recommend.”
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