Chula Vista Criminal Defense Attorney & DUI Lawyer
When you are facing the oppressive power of law enforcement agencies and state or federal prosecutors, the prospect of incarceration, damage to your reputation and other adverse consequences can make the future look extremely bleak. Some people are so overwhelmed that they panic and fail to assert their constitutional rights. Many criminal convictions in Chula Vista and the surrounding areas are based on evidence obtained during this period when people are shaken by an arrest or investigation but fail to seek legal representation. This may result in providing damaging statements, giving consent to searches or otherwise providing evidence that will later be used by a prosecutor.
Anytime you are arrested or merely the subject of an investigation, the best way to protect your freedom and future is to refuse to speak to a law enforcement officer until you have the benefit of legal advice and representation from an experienced Chula Vista criminal defense attorney. At the Law Offices of David M. Boertje, we are dedicated to providing zealous advocacy while tenaciously protecting our clients’ rights and freedom. Whether we are challenging the legal sufficiency of evidence to justify a stop, forensic evidence or the veracity of a witness, we are prepared to utilize effective defense strategies to obtain a dismissal of charges, favorable plea bargain or acquittal after trial.
Many people presume that if they are cooperative and forthcoming, there is a better chance that they will avoid an arrest or that they will be released without being forced to remain in custody. When police officers question people about a crime, they are generally looking to extract information that provides probable cause for an arrest or to conduct a search. The best way to increase your odds of avoiding an arrest and/or conviction is to assert your rights to have an attorney present during any questioning and not to consent to any search.What Should You Do If You Are Arrested in Chula Vista?
Whether you are arrested for a felony or misdemeanor, you should immediately decline to answer questions without a Chula Vista lawyer present. Depending on the circumstances, the officers may tell you that you are not under arrest so there is no reason for you to have a lawyer. This is absolutely false! Sometimes officer will delay making a formal arrest because you do not have to be given a Miranda warning until you are “in custody.” While you must be Mirandized once you are formally arrested, Miranda protections apply as soon as a reasonable person would not think that he or she is free to leave. If you have not been formally arrested, you should ask if you are free to leave. Even though the officers may decline your request, this may trigger your rights to counsel and against self-incrimination.
It is important to understand that any spontaneous statement offered prior to a Miranda warning might be admissible against you. Further, statements made before the officers are obligated to provide a Miranda warning (i.e. before you are “in custody”), also might be used against you, so the bottom line is that you should not answer any questions beyond providing your identification without speaking to a criminal defense attorney.Understanding the Process in Chula Vista Criminal Cases
Because the criminal process can be daunting and unfamiliar, Chula Vista criminal defense lawyer David M. Boertje has provided a basic overview of the steps in a criminal prosecution in the San Diego area.Preliminary Investigation and Arrest
There are a several ways that a law enforcement agency can commence a criminal investigation. In some situations, the officer might observe someone engaged in activity that creates a “reasonable suspicion” that the person is engaged in criminal activity. While the standard of reasonable suspicion requires less evidence than is necessary to constitute “probable cause” for arrest, a mere hunch is not sufficient. Further, the reasonable suspicion justifying a stop must be based on articulable facts. Whether a law enforcement officer stops you in your vehicle or on the street, the officer may only briefly detain you and inquire further. If the officer does not obtain sufficient evidence to constitute probably cause for an arrest, the officer will have to let you go and conduct a further investigation, which may include interviewing witnesses, reviewing physical evidence and engaging in similar activity to gather evidence.
While many criminal cases involve the preliminary stop of a driver, a law enforcement investigation can also begin with a complaining witness filing a criminal complaint under oath. If the crime is not committed in the officer’s presence, the law enforcement agency will conduct an appropriate investigation to determine if a crime has been committed and to identity of the suspect. If the officer concludes there is sufficient evidence to justify an arrest, the case will be submitted to the district attorney who will make a decision about whether to file formal charges. If you retain an experienced Chula Vista criminal defense lawyer before former charges have been filed, the attorney can sometimes take steps to prevent formal charges from being filed. Where this is not possible, sometimes less severe or fewer charges might be filed by effective legal representation at this stage of the process.The Arraignment – Entering a Formal Plea
At this stage in the process, the judge advises you of the charges against you and provides an opportunity to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. While you should retain a Chula Vista criminal defense attorney as soon as you know you are subject to an investigation or arrest, you should never enter a plea of guilty at an arraignment without legal representation. If you fail to appear at your arraignment, the court will issue a bench warrant for your arrest. However, if your case is already out to warrant our criminal defense law firm can likely clear the warrant or get it quashed depending on the circumstances.Pre-Trial Readiness Conference
This hearing is an opportunity for your criminal defense attorney to discuss the case with the prosecutor to determine if a plea agreement can be reached. Mr. Boertje uses this opportunity to expose weaknesses in the prosecutor’s case to negotiate a favorable resolution to your case. If a plea agreement is negotiated, you will enter your plea and a hearing will be scheduled for sentencing. When an acceptable plea agreement cannot be negotiated, a misdemeanor case will be set for trial. If you are facing felony charges, a preliminary hearing will be scheduled.Preliminary Hearing
This stage in the proceedings is essentially like a mini-trial where the prosecutor must establish that there is sufficient evidence to establish probable cause that you committed the charged offenses. This is an opportunity to preview the prosecutor’s case and cross-examine government witnesses. The evidence and testimony can provide valuable insight on whether it is advisable to proceed to trial.Arraignment of the Information – Second Readiness Conference
The judge may determine that there is not enough evidence for the case to proceed to trial on at least some of the charges. When the judge determines that sufficient evidence exists for the case to move forward, the judge will bound the case over, transforming the criminal complaint into an Information. A second arraignment is conducted where you will be asked to enter a plea to the remaining charges. The prosecutor and your criminal defense attorney can again negotiate to see if a favorable plea agreement can be negotiated. If you plead not guilty and an agreement is not reached, another readiness conference will scheduled, which will generally be the last formal hearing at which a plea agreement can be negotiated prior to trial.Jury Trial & Sentencing
If there is no acceptable agreement to resolve your case, it proceeds to trial. The trial is an extensive courtroom proceeding that typically involves selecting a jury, filing pretrial motions and presenting physical evidence, witnesses and expert testimony within the framework of the rules of evidence. If the jury is not unanimous on a verdict, the prosecutor may elect to re-try the case, but the conviction rate drops substantially on re-trials. An acquittal on the charges will conclude the case against you. If you plead guilty or you are convicted after trial, the case will be scheduled for sentencing.Consequences of a Conviction
Chula Vista criminal defense attorney David M. Boertje understands that a conviction of a misdemeanor or felony can derail your future and deprive you of your freedom. Depending on the nature of the charges, a criminal conviction can result in a wide range of penalties that include:
- County jail or state prison
- Substantial fines and assessments
- Driver’s license suspension or revocation (DUI/DWI)
- Loss of certain constitutional rights (gun ownership, voting, jury service)
- Compulsory participation in drug treatment, anger management classes and/or counseling
- Criminal record
- Registration as a sex offender
- Mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device (driving under the influence)
As if these penalties are not severe enough, there are many other long-term consequences that can flow from a misdemeanor or felony conviction, such as:
- Loss of immigration benefits and privileges
- Exclusion from certain occupations and professions
- Denial of housing by landlords
- Adverse impact on admission or continuation at institutions of higher learning
- Denial of loans or financial aid
At the Law Offices of David M. Boertje, we carefully investigate the facts, interview witnesses, identify applicable defenses and utilize effective advocacy to protect our clients facing criminal charges. Depending on the facts of your case, we may use private investigators, forensics experts and advanced courtroom technology to build a compelling defense. While our objective is to obtain a dismissal of the charges or acquittal after trial where this option is feasible, we also explore plea agreements that may prevent you from being incarcerated or include a diversion option that allows you to avoid a criminal record. We carefully explain your alternatives so that you can make an informed decision about potential plea terms and your prospects at trial.
We invite you to visit us in our downtown San Diego office which is only minutes from Chula Vista so that we can evaluate your case, explain your rights and outline potential defense strategies. We can meet with you during normal business hours and even on weekends or evenings and return calls 24 hours/7 days per week. Call us today at (760) 476-0901 to arrange a free no obligation confidential consultation. You also can also submit an inquiry by completing the form on our Contact Us page or emailing us.