New York Criminal Lawyer/
Governments make laws to help create a stable and orderly environment for their citizens to live in. Some laws are better than others; some are made with the right idea, but with the wrong implementation.
Whatever the case, where there is a law, there is a good chance someone has broken it.
Michael Litman is an experienced DWI attorney and criminal defense attorney based in White Plains, NY. Since 2007, he has been defending individuals charged with crimes in Westchester County, White Plains, and the New York Metro area. You can count on Michael Litman’s expertise to help you build a defense if you are charged with a DWI, assault, larceny, weapons possession, drug crime, or any other criminal offense.
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Your Constitutional Rights in New York
When the founding fathers set up the framework for our country, they put in place a groundbreaking idea. They founded the United States on the idea of not just individual liberty, but with the idea that instead of the government being all-powerful, citizens have rights. These rights meant that a person was no longer subjected simply to the whim of a king or a dictator, but that everyone would be subject to the Constitution – a statement that clearly outlines the guarantees and freedoms afforded to the country’s citizens.
Perhaps no protections are more important than the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, added in 1789, which clearly states:
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.
Accused Crimes We Defend
The Law Office of Michael D. Litman, PLLC, New York criminal defense lawyer, handles criminal defense cases in White Plains, Westchester County and the New York Metro area, including:
- DWI – Driving while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
- Larceny – Theft or stealing.
- Burglary — Entering a property with the intent to commit a crime like theft.
- ID theft – – Stealing an identity for personal gain.
- Assault — Physically attacking an individual.
- Drug Crimes — Possession, use, selling or distribution of illegal substances.
- Weapons Possession – Illegally possessing a weapon, whether without registration or simply doing so in violation of the law.
- Sex Crimes – Any of a number of crimes involving sex, including sexual assault, sexual conduct with a minor, rape, and others.
Charged with a Crime in New York? Know Your Rights
According to the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution, as a defendant, you have several rights that may not be taken away. Among others, your rights include:
- The Right to a Speedy Trial – A trial may be delayed for several reasons, including to investigate, gather evidence, change venues, security, etc., but may not be delayed simply in order to advantage the prosecution.
- Public Trial – Generally, a defendant is guaranteed the right to a public trial. This makes sure that all laws are followed and protects the rights of the defendant from an overbearing government, as well as ensuring a transparent judicial system. However, trials may be closed for the benefit of the defendant. For example, if excessive publicity or any other reason will inhibit the defendant’s right to a fair trial, it may be closed to the public.
- Impartial Jury — The right to a jury trial does not apply to every criminal charge; a jury is not guaranteed for crimes that have a possible sentence of less than six months. A jury is also not guaranteed in Juvenile Court, as the sentences are generally lighter. However, in more serious cases, a jury is guaranteed (based on the request of the defendant or counsel), in which case the jury must be unbiased. Juries are chosen by both the defense attorney and the prosecutor through a process called voir dire. Potential jurors found to be biased should be eliminated from the jury during the selection process.
- Notice of Accusation – A defendant has the right to know what he is accused of. Officers may not simply arrest people without reason.
- Assistance of Counsel –A defendant has the right to be defended by qualified counsel, whether or not they have the money to pay for it.
How the Court System Works
When a criminal case comes to trial, the court will include four major parts: the judge, the jury, the prosecution, and the defense. The judge keeps order in the court and advises the jury as to legal matters. The jury ultimately has to decide whether or not the defendant is guilty of the crime he or she has been accused of.
The defense is the individual who has been accused of committing the crime, along with his or her legal counsel. It is up to the prosecution to prove that the defendant is actually guilty of the crime he or she has been accused of.
In order to convict an individual of a crime, the prosecutor must prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the defendant committed all of the elements of the crime in question. This means the prosecutor must show evidence that rules out any reasonable doubt that the individual committed the crime. (The prosecutor is not required to prove their case beyond all doubt, as that could be too high of a standard in many cases.)
The prosecutor’s strategy in a case, therefore, will depend on compiling evidence that gradually removes every reasonable doubt from the realm of possibility. This means it’s the prosecution’s job to find and eliminate every source of doubt of the defendant’s guilt.
If you are accused of a crime, your defense strategy will be the most important thing you have. It can make the difference between a guilty verdict and a not guilty verdict, or it could be the difference between a light sentence and a heavy one. A good defense strategy will include at least some of the following aspects:
- Consistency with the evidence
The explanation the defense gives in court has to agree with the facts. If the prosecution has the defendant’s fingerprints at the scene of the crime, the defense needs to be able to explain how they got there, or be able to show that the fingerprints are not as strong of a match as the prosecution is suggesting.
- Gaining the judge’s or jury’s sympathy
The defense might try to show that the defendant did all he or she could to avoid performing any criminal acts. This could mitigate the crimes and lead to a reduced sentence.
- Explaining why things happened the way they did
If the defense has a defense to the charge, like self-defense in an assault case, that defense will need to be explained to the jury through cross-examination and/or defense witness testimony. Additionally, if for example, the defense says that the defendant was somewhere else when the crime was committed, the defense will need to be able to back up that story in court.
What is a Felony?
A felony is a crime of high seriousness, and the New York Penal Law defines felonies as being punishable by imprisonment in excess of one year. There are many types of felonies, but a few examples include murder, sexual assault, and drug trafficking. The State of New York is tough on crime, and anyone convicted of a felony offense in New York loses some of the rights given American citizens. These include:
- The right to vote during the time of incarceration and while on parole (can be restored in NY after parole is completed)
- The right to purchase firearms
- The right to sit on a jury
- The eligibility for welfare
- Access to Federally funded housing
- The right to certain types of licenses (including professional licenses)
What is a Misdemeanor?
A misdemeanor is a crime that is punishable by less than a year in jail. Misdemeanors come in three varieties: class A, class B and unclassified misdemeanors in the Vehicle and Traffic Law (VTL). A class A misdemeanor is more severe and can be punished with up to one year in jail. A class B misdemeanor is less severe, bringing a maximum penalty of up to ninety days in jail. An unclassified misdemeanor ranges in maximum penalty depending on the charge, but is never more than one year.
In addition, there are violations. Violations are not technically crimes, but they may be punished by up to 15 days in jail. Possession of a very small amount of marijuana, for example, is classified as a violation in the State of New York. In plea bargaining with the prosecutor, the violation of disorderly conduct is often the reduced charge that is offered, which results in a non-criminal disposition.
Consequences of Conviction
The consequences of conviction include jail time. In the case of felonies, they also include the loss of certain rights, such as the right to vote. In addition, most convictions are accompanied by some type of fine.
For example, driving while intoxicated (DWI) as a misdemeanor has a fine of $500 to $1,000, a surcharge of $400, and DMV assessment of $750. DWI convictions also have programs associated with them that need to be paid for, ignition interlock devices (IIDs), and increased insurance premiums.
Further consequences of having a conviction include things like: difficulty finding a job, loss of housing, limits to the ability to travel internationally, immigration consequences if you aren’t a citizen, and many other hard-to-define losses.
A New York Criminal Lawyer is Indispensable
The average defendant is not aware of their rights. As a result, legal representation is a necessity to make sure the defendant’s rights are protected and to navigate the legal process successfully. If you have been accused of a crime, it is in your best interests to secure legal representation as soon as possible.
The sooner your lawyer can begin working on your defense, the better your lawyer will be able to mitigate the above consequences.
Contact a New York Criminal Defense Attorney Today
If you or a loved one has been accused of a crime, contact the Law Office of Michael D. Litman, PLLC as soon as possible.
For questions or to set up a consultation, contact us online or call us at 917.554.8231. Our firm will work with you from the arraignment all the way through the trial.