Thoughts on Criminal Defense in North Carolina

What Happens If Certain Witnesses Fail To Show Up At The Trial?

If witnesses fail to show up at trial, it can be an issue for the case. I try to discourage clients from thinking that’s going to happen or that it would even make a difference. There have certainly been cases over the years in which we won the case because witnesses failed to show up. Though it can happen, it’s not a dependable defense because the state can usually get around it. Furthermore, it could end up negatively impacting the defense’s case. In the more serious cases, it’s just not going to happen because the state is not going to allow a murder case to fall through simply because a witness did not show up.

Are Most Criminal Trials Jury Trials Or Bench Trials? Do You Have A Choice?

Most criminal trials are bench trials, because most of them involve lower level misdemeanors. All misdemeanors in North Carolina start out in district court with a bench trial. If a person is convicted, he can appeal to get a jury trial. It’s a de novo appeal, so it’s automatic. When dealing with felonies in the superior courts, North Carolina law allows a person to opt to have a bench trial. That’s a relatively new development that occurred in the last couple of years. Prior to that, a person charged with a felony (or any case in superior court) had to have a jury trial.

Is The Plea Offer No Longer Available If Someone Is Convicted At Trial?

The plea offer is nothing more than an offer, like a contract. As such, it can be withdrawn at any point. If you go to trial, they may offer you the same plea, or an even better plea. Once a person is convicted, the plea offer is not an option, but that doesn’t mean a person couldn’t get less time than they would have with a plea offer. The plea offer is nothing more than an offer to accept, just like any other contract, and it is withdrawn when the prosecutor says it’s withdrawn. Generally, it is off the table by the time you get to the trial.

Is Someone Punished For Taking A Case To Trial By A Harsher Sentence?

A person can certainly receive a harsher sentence as a result of choosing to take a case to trial. The punishment could be much worse because the state or the prosecutor is giving you a plea offer in an effort to move the case; they are trying to make a good enough offer to entice you to take it. Even if you are not convicted of something worse, you could be convicted of more than one count, which would result in a longer sentence. However, if the result of trial is a lesser conviction than what the plea offer was for, the punishment very well could be better. So, it’s certainly possible to get a longer sentence by going to trial as opposed to taking a plea offer, but there are also situations in which a person does better by going to trial. Obviously, the reason for going to trial is to aim for a better result than the plea offer would give. A positive outcome of trial could include less time, or a different conviction altogether. This is important because the name of the conviction can make a difference.

What Are The Important Things To Know Before Deciding On Whether To Take A Case To Trial?

Before deciding whether or not to take a case to trial, it is important to absolutely understand what we expect the evidence at the trial to be, what the state’s investigation shows, what the evidence should be, and what the consequences are if the person is convicted. That’s critical. If you lose, what happens? What’s the advantage if you win? If you are offered some great deal, is there really an upside to go to trial and win? A person has to consider all of these things, and there is no right or wrong answer in every case. Although there are cases where it’s an easy decision to resolve the case, there are also cases where it’s an easy decision to go to trial. Most cases fall somewhere in the middle. The person really has to weigh all the evidence, potential consequences, potential downsides, and potential upsides of going to trial. It’s a hard choice- agonizing in many cases.

How Does Your Personality, Style And Courtroom Experience Help A Client In Getting A Favorable Outcome?

I certainly have a reputation for being willing to try a case. I don’t pretend to be a person who tries every case, or even wants to try every case. I want to help the client and I want the client to get the best outcome. Oftentimes, the best outcome for my client is to resolve the case, but I’ve certainly tried many cases. If you count up the weeks, I’ve spent a total of three years of my life in trial. Prosecutors certainly know that if we have a triable case, we’re going to try it, and I think that figures in. At the same time, I’m pretty straightforward with everybody about what I think is the best outcome. I certainly advise my clients to do what’s best for them. After all, it is the client who ultimately must live with the outcome. I’ll be upset if things don’t go our way, but the client is the one who suffers the consequences.

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