Frequently Asked Questions
This section provides answers to frequently asked criminal law and criminal procedure questions. This information is meant to provide general background information; it is not legal advice and it is not provided with the intention or expectation that an attorney-client relationship will, in fact, be established between you and me. None of the information on this website is a substitute for personalized legal advice.
+ What can I do if I am falsely accused of a crime?
It’s true: innocent people are arrested every day. You need to take precautions and it’s never advisable to try to represent yourself. Many times, people who attempt to talk their way out of the charges end up making admissions of criminal conduct that are later used against them by the police and the prosecution. Even innocent people end up in jail. Your first step in the face of a false accusation should be to immediately consult with a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney who knows his way around the criminal justice system, who realizes how to quickly and permanently preserve your rights, and who can effectively talk to the police, prosecutor and judge.
In a recent case I handled, three eyewitnesses accused a client of a crime he didn’t commit. He was arrested and held in prison because he couldn't make bail. By promptly subpoenaing videotapes from three different locations, and by interviewing alibi witnesses, we were able to convince the prosecutor to drop the charges. Without that evidence, no one would have believed my client was innocent.
+ If I know I’m guilty, why do I need an attorney? Can’t I just plead guilty?
One of the basic rights we hold in this country is the right to be presumed innocent. While we may be morally obligated to accept the consequences of our actions, we’re not legally obligated. You should consider hiring an attorney so that your rights will be preserved and your decisions will be both informed and intelligent. You may not know all of the consequences of a guilty plea. Before entering a guilty plea, you should understand: What will you be admitting to? Are you eligible for one of Delaware’s first offender resolutions? Does the plea agreement provide for a specific sentence? If there is a possible jail sentence, are you eligible for a deferred prison sentence, Boot Camp, Work Release, or Electronic Monitoring? If there is a prison sentence, will you receive good time credits? If you are not a United States citizen, will the guilty plea affect your ability to remain in or re-enter the United States? Will you be required to attend counseling, complete community service, submit to random drug tests, wear an electronic monitor, or register as a sex offender?
In a recent case I handled, a member of our armed services came to me after he pled guilty in the Family Court to a charge of domestic violence; he believed that pleading guilty was the ‘right thing to do.’ No one told him, however, that, as a result of his conviction, he would be legally prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm; he was thereafter discharged from the military. We had to fight to get him back into court to withdraw the guilty plea and to resolve the criminal case in such a way as to get his career back.
Having an attorney may also minimize the ultimate sentence you receive. Depending on the nature of the charges and your prior criminal history, the courts may treat you very harshly if you simply plead guilty without any intelligent negotiations before hand.
+ Should I make legal decisions based upon the advice of friends, relatives, or police officers?
I don't recommend it. Even though this advice may be well-intended, these people are not lawyers and are not appropriately trained in the area of criminal law and criminal procedure. They may not be familiar with the applicable laws, the consequences of a conviction and the availability of one or more defenses. Each case is different and must be reviewed in its entirety. Only after a thorough analysis by an experienced criminal defense attorney can you have a better idea of how the case can be resolved.
+ If the victim wants to drop charges, does that mean my case will be dismissed?
In Delaware, you can be arrested and prosecuted for any violent crime -- misdemeanor or felony -- even if the victim didn't want you to be arrested in the first place. In some cases, especially with allegations of domestic violence, the victim has no authority to drop the charges against the alleged abuser. The Prosecutor can sometimes proceed with the criminal case even if the alleged victim decides not to go to court. The Prosecutor is the only one who can drop charges because the victim is merely a witness in a government prosecution.