Criminal lawyers are called upon to represent either individuals or organizations on a wide range of crimes ranging from simple misdemeanors to first-degree murder and other felonies. Defense of crimes for which Breen & Pugh have been engaged include:
- White Collar Crime
- Public Corruption and Abuse of Authority
- Fraud, Embezzlement and Abuse
- Environmental Offenses
- Racketeering and Money Laundering
- Violent Crimes such as First Degree Murder and Aggravated Assault
- Production, Possession or Sale of Controlled Substances
- Sex Crimes
- Internet Crimes and Piracy
- Shaken Baby Syndrome and Child Neglect
- Felony DUI
The Complex Criminal Law System
The criminal justice system is a complex mechanism intended to protect the public and discourage wrongful activities. Those convicted of violating criminal law are likely to face incarceration, fines and other penalties. But the legal process itself – getting to a conviction or dismissal of a criminal matter – takes a huge toll on any individual or business entity. To ensure the expediency and best outcome, it’s essential that anyone accused of a serious crime retain the assistance of an experienced attorney.
Classification of Crime: Misdemeanors vs. Felonies
Local, state and federal penal codes determine the severity and consequences for violating specific crimes. Depending on the seriousness of a crime, it may be qualified as a misdemeanor or a felony, which is a significant distinction and has grave implications for the accused.
Misdemeanors are a class of crimes considered less serious, and typically carry a maximum penalty of one year in county jail. Some examples include first-offense drunk driving and other traffic violations, petty theft (usually classified as theft of less than $500), possession of small amounts of controlled substances, and assault not resulting in bodily injury. More serious crimes are classified as felonies and carry punishments of a year or more in state or federal prison. Felonies include violent crimes such as rape, murder and armed robbery, as well as so-called white collar crimes. White collar crime refers primarily to offenses where financial gain is attained using some form of deception. Examples of white collar crimes are: tax evasion, insider trading, insurance fraud, bribery, embezzlement, and money laundering.
What is Criminal Defense Law?
Within the criminal justice system, there is a fundamental balance of power and protection. On the one hand, criminal prosecutors working for the state are responsible for bringing up charges and pursuing convictions for suspected offenders. On the other side of the equation, criminal defense lawyers may be either court-appointed or private attorneys. Their goal is to ensure that anyone accused of committing a crime is afforded all the legal protections available to them.
This balance of power – of checks and balances – is essential to the system. Law enforcement agencies, in partnership with state and federal prosecutors, have extensive resources at their disposal, with a mandate of seeing that justice is served when a crime has been committed. Without a criminal defense team ensuring adequate protections for the accused, the balance of power within the justice system would be heavily skewed in favor of the government. And fair treatment for criminal defendants often depends less on the protections inherently contained in the law, and more on the skill and experience of their defense attorneys.
Protecting a Defendant’s Rights
Lacking familiarity with the court system, most defendants would be unable to navigate the process effectively without the counsel of a trained criminal defense lawyer. Endless traps exist – opportunities for an unwitting individual to unintentionally waive their rights, or say or do something that unknowingly harms their interests and increase the likelihood of conviction. From the moment of arrest, throughout the entire legal process, a criminal defense lawyer will help ensure a defendant is exercising their rights and leveraging all constitutional protections.
Police interrogations, arraignments, bail discussions, evidence review, discovery proceedings, plea bargaining, sentencing negotiations – these are all critical elements of a complex criminal justice process that a defense attorney is highly skilled at maneuvering on behalf of their clients. If a case proceeds to trial, an experienced criminal defense team is essential to protecting the rights of the accused and ensuring the best possible outcome. From jury selection, to opening arguments, to prepping witnesses, questioning and cross-examining witnesses for both the defense and the prosecution, all the way through to final arguments, extensive legal training is required to navigate the system effectively. At the very least, a defendant’s reputation and credibility is at stake. At the most, their life and liberty may hang in the balance.
Defense attorneys are deeply trained in using constitutional protections to the advantage of their clients. Protection against unreasonable search and seizure, double jeopardy protection, guaranteed right to a public trial and to be judged by a jury of peers are some of those protections that can be exercised. The right to leverage the subpoena power of the court to require the appearance of witnesses for the defense is also important, as is the right to confront and cross-examine adverse witnesses. Zealous representation at trial by a criminal defense attorney relies on this all.