When you’re caught in the criminal justice system, it can be overwhelming. You’re worried about the charges and their impact on your future, and with good reason: even an allegation can have a negative impact on your life.
Whether you are currently under investigation, have been charged with a misdemeanor or felony, or are concerned that charges are about to be filed, you need to make sure that your legal rights are protected throughout the criminal law process.
As an experienced Santa Rosa criminal defense attorney, Amy Chapman recognizes what’s at stake for you. She understands the possible consequences of a criminal accusation or investigation can have on your life and her legal services include proven strategies to protect your future.
Below is an overview of some of the criminal cases Amy handles for clients across Sonoma County
- DUI: DUI penalties in California can be harsh. Even a first time offender can face jail time, heavy fines, and a suspended license. A second or third DUI charge can result in up to one year in jail and a multi-year license suspension.
- Felony DUI & DUI With Injury: You can be charged with a felony DUI if you are arrested and have at least three DUI or alcohol-related charges on your record within the last 10 years. If someone else is injured, the charge can become felony DUI with injury. Felony DUIs are punishable by up to three years in state prison.
- Under 21 DUI: California has zero tolerance for underage drinking. If you are under 21 and charged with DUI, you face fines and fees as well as a one year license suspension from the DMV, so contact a DUI attorney.
- Manslaughter (Voluntary, Involuntary, Vehicular): California has three types of manslaughter offenses. Voluntary manslaughter is the act of killing someone in the ‘heat of the moment,’ without premeditation The punishment can be up to 21 years in prison if a firearm was involved. Involuntary manslaughter occurs when your non-felony actions cause the death of another person while with vehicular manslaughter, a vehicle is involved and the act is the result of gross negligence or intoxication.
- Assault and Battery: Assault is defined as an unlawful attempt to violently injure someone else while the battery is the willful and unlawful touching of someone else in a harmful or offensive manner. Depending on the circumstances, you could be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony.
- Homicide: In California, there are two degrees of murder: 1st, which is the deliberate killing of another person, and 2nd, which is murder without premeditation or deliberation. Depending on the circumstances, a conviction could send you to prison for the rest of your life, so you need a law office with experience in defending such severe criminal charges.
- Kidnapping: Kidnapping is the crime of unlawfully moving a victim from one place to another a substantial distance away without their consent. It is a violent felony in California, so 80% of a resulting sentence would have to be served. Related offenses include kidnapping a child under 14 years old and kidnapping for ransom or extortion.
- Robbery: Robbery occurs when you use force or fear to permanently deprive someone of their personal property. A common example is a holdup with a real or fake weapon. Robbery is one of the enumerated violent felonies in California, making it a strike, so you will need the best criminal defense possible.
- Firearms & Weapons Offenses: California has several laws regarding the possession and use of weapons, handguns, assault weapons, and all firearms. Even if the weapon wasn’t used in a crime, you can face time in jail or state prison, so expert legal representation is mandatory.
- Drug Charges: Although drug charges are among the most common in the criminal justice system, they still carry devastating penalties, especially if you are accused of possessing drugs with intent to distribute or sell.
- Marijuana Charges: Effective November 9, 2016, Californians over the age of 21 can legally possess, transport, buy, use, or share up to one ounce of marijuana, and up to 8 grams of marijuana concentrates. If you were charged with a marijuana offense prior to this date, contact the Law Office of Amy Chapman to seek a reduction or dismissal.
- Domestic Violence: State law imposes harsh penalties on those convicted of domestic violence. Unfortunately, when emotions run high, people have been known to wrongly accuse loved ones of domestic abuse. If it happens to you, seek experienced legal counsel immediately.
- Sex Crimes: Being arrested or even investigated for a sex crime like rape, child molestation, sexual battery, prostitution, or child pornography is a devastating event that can destroy your future. You’ll need a criminal defense lawyer like Amy Chapman, who has successfully defended these charges in the past.
- Theft Crimes: Theft crimes in California include burglary, petty theft, grand theft, check fraud, and other offenses that can send you to state prison for years. Residential burglary in particular is a serious felony that counts as a strike.
- Traffic Violations: If you are accused of a traffic violation, you could face more than just a ticket. Some offenses, like hit and run or evading a police officer, are punishable by years in prison.
- Probation Violations: When you violate the terms of your probation, the consequences can be as serious as a new charge. You could face up to the maximum sentence for the crime for which you are on probation.
- Expungements: An expungement can clean your record and let you move on from past mistakes. A criminal defense lawyer can help you obtain the clean record you need to improve your job prospects, obtain access to public housing, and even become a citizen.
Amy Chapman has been a Santa Rosa criminal defense lawyer since 2000. As a seasoned trial attorney, Amy understands that people make mistakes or can be wrongly accused of a criminal act. She will deliver the legal advice and representation you need to fight for your freedom and your future, so to schedule a free consultation with a Sonoma County law firm you can trust, call (707) 636-3207.
Is Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer Really Worth It? How Do I Know I Got The Right Attorney?
It is almost always worth it to hire a criminal defense attorney to preserve the person’s rights so they could get the best possible outcome for their case. The person would not need to have to go it alone and they would never know who they might be assigned from the public defender’s office because they are generally extremely overworked.
Finding the right criminal attorney would require the person to look for somebody who had a depth of experience in the county where the case was being heard, and they would need to find someone who had trial experience, who was very familiar with the district attorneys and the judges and had the respect of the district attorneys and the judges. Hiring an attorney would also be a personal thing because the person would need to feel comfortable with the defense attorney who they ultimately selected because that would be their counselor.
It would be the attorney’s job to answer the client’s questions, allay their fears, and communicate with their client regarding all aspects of the case. If someone was not comfortable communicating with their attorney, then their relationship with that attorney would be difficult and the client would not be as satisfied as they could be.
Public Defender, Private Lawyer Or Defend Yourself, Which Is Best In A Criminal Case?
There are some very good attorneys in the public defender’s office although they are generally overworked because they have a lot of cases and very little time. A private attorney would be able to limit the number of cases he or she took on so they would be able to spend a lot more time with their client for preparing the case. Time would probably be the biggest difference between hiring a private attorney and letting a public defender handle the case but it can be a big issue.
A public defender would usually just keep up with their clients and keep them informed, whereas a private practice attorney would have plenty of time to make sure their client and any interested family members were informed and up-to-date because they would be able to answer their questions more thoroughly. This would often make a huge difference in making sure the client was aware of everything that was happening.
Having an attorney would help almost every time, and while no attorney would be able to get every case dismissed or dropped, a good one would be able to greatly improve nearly every client’s situation through reduced charges, less jail time, alternatives to jail or informal probation rather than formal probation, which would all be possible outcomes and options in a criminal case and it would be what a good criminal attorney would aim for even if they could not get the case dismissed outright.
Is It A Good Idea To Represent Oneself?
Representing oneself would is usually the worst idea possible. Even attorneys hire other attorneys to represent them when they face charges. The person should not represent themselves in court because judges would not do any favors for a defendant who represented themselves. Someone who was unfamiliar with courtroom procedure and with the language or nuances of court, would not have an advantage especially if they slowed down the process and the judge had to constantly teach them.
Will My Case Be Dismissed Because The Police Did Not Read Me My Miranda Rights?
People watch a lot of police shows on TV, so they often tell me that the officer did not read them their Miranda rights, not realizing that it would be rare for the police to be required to read them their Miranda rights before a DUI arrest. This is especially common with DUI defendants.
The police are only required to read the person their Miranda rights if they were in custody, meaning either in jail or another confined setting, or if they had detained the person in a way so they were not free to leave, such as if they were in handcuffs, blocked or caught by the police. Even in this scenario, the police would only be required to read the person those rights if they were asking questions that might be incriminating. There would be no need to read the Miranda rights if the police just arrested the person for a DUI and did not ask any potentially incriminating questions.
Failure to read the Miranda rights is virtually never grounds for an automatic dismissal, although there are often situations where the police violated the person’s Miranda rights by questioning them while they were in custody but the case was not thrown out. When that happens, it would be possible for the defendant to file a motion to suppress those statements and not have those particular statements used against them in court.
Whether or not the case got thrown out would depend on other evidence and whether it was strong enough to withstand the loss of those statements. The only time such a case would probably get thrown out would be if the only evidence was a person’s confession and that was thrown out.
Are Miranda Rights Becoming Less Relevant In 2015?
No, they are not becoming less relevant, however, there are not many situations where an officer would actually be required to read the Miranda rights. A lot of people get investigated and arrested without there ever being a need for the Miranda rights to be read. The simple fact that an arrest occurred and no Miranda rights were read would not mean that the case would go away and it would not mean that the officer committed any type of error.
Even if Miranda rights should have been read and the officer did not read them, then in almost all cases it would not result in the complete dismissal of the case. The remedy would be that the person would be able to have whatever statements they gave the officer in violation of the Miranda rights, removed from the case so those statements could no longer be used against them.
How Can Someone Hear “Not Guilty” Or “Case Dismissed” For Their Criminal Case?
Being able to hear those words would usually start with getting a good attorney to help get that result. A good attorney would be able to unearth every possible defense or they would be able to dissect the case and chip away at the evidence that the prosecutor had until they got to the point where they were forced to dismiss it, or if the case went to trial, then the jury would not be convinced that the prosecution could prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt which is where the person would hear the words “Not guilty.”
Searched Without A Warrant? Stop The Police From Railroading You.
The police simply cannot search someone without a good reason, although they would be able to search the person or their property, so the person should be cooperative and say as little as possible while the police executed their search warrants. If the police wanted to search the person without a warrant, then the person would not need to consent to a search of themselves, their car or their home. They would be able to politely decline and ask for an attorney to be contacted.
If the police searched the person anyway without consent, then the person should continue to let the officer know that they were not consenting to the search, meaning the person did not want themselves or their property to be searched because when that case goes to court, the person’s attorney might be able to file a motion to get that evidence suppressed regarding what was found during that search so they could ultimately get the case thrown out if the officer violated the person’s constitutional rights and conducted an illegal search.