Criminal Law: Questions & Answers
When you are facing criminal charges, it can be scary and overwhelming if you don’t have a law firm protecting your due process rights. At my firm, The Law Office of Joshua A. Lopez, LLC, I use my background as an experienced and knowledgeable attorney who has extensive insight into the legal system to create powerful legal defense strategies. As your attorney, I will sit down with you and discuss every detail of your case and answer any questions you may have. On this page, I answer some of the most common questions I hear when talking to my criminal defense clients.
What is the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor?
A felony is a crime that is punishable for one year or more in state prison. Generally, there is a seven-year statute of limitations. Misdemeanors are punishable for up to 6 months in jail. Felonies and misdemeanors are broken down into classes, which corresponds to the seriousness of the offense. For example, DUI is a class 1 misdemeanor, the highest level of misdemeanor. Criminal speeding is a class 3 misdemeanor, the lowest level of misdemeanor. First-degree murder is a class 1 felony, the highest felony level. Possession of marijuana for personal use is a class 6 undesignated felony, the lowest level of a felony.
Can I have my record expunged or sealed?
In Arizona, there is no such thing as an expungement or sealing of records for adult cases, unlike in states like California and Nevada. In Arizona, we have something called a set-aside, which may help people for employment, fingerprint clearance cards, background checks, etc. Not all offenses qualify, so call me to discuss your case and see if filing for a set-aside is right for you.
How long will it take my criminal case to move through the system?
The process generally takes a couple of months. With a criminal case, unlike minor traffic ticket cases, there are numerous court appearances. The first court appearance is the arraignment; we always file a Notice of Appearance, plead not guilty and set a readiness hearing.
From that point, we can communicate with the court and the prosecutor regarding the case and are entitled to receive discovery in the case. Discovery includes police reports, Axon body cameras, pictures, witness statements, etc. This allows us to fight for dismissal or reduced charges in your case. If the prosecution is reluctant to give us what we want in discovery, we take the case to trial.
Do I have to appear in court if I hire an attorney?
If you are facing felony charges, you have to go to every court appearance, regardless of whether you hired an attorney or not. If you are facing misdemeanor charges, I can represent you in court without you having to be physically present. That way, you can focus on school, work and other obligations without having to worry about the court. I will keep you updated every step of the way and let you know the status of your case.
Should I talk to the police or the prosecutor about the case?
Absolutely not! Many times, people tell me they wanted to cooperate with the police and be kind. But everything you say to the police or the prosecutor will be used against you in court. You are presumed innocent, so you do not have to prove your innocence by talking to anyone. The better approach is to respectfully tell the police that you do not want to answer any questions and to request that you be allowed to speak with an attorney. That will stop all police questioning.