Fort Smith, AR Criminal Defense Lawyer
Being charged with a crime is one of the scariest and most disorienting experiences a person can face. If convicted, you could face not only legal penalties such as jail time and large fines, but also a ruined reputation and low odds of finding employment. Without proper legal counsel, you will likely feel lost and alone. You need someone on your side telling your story.
At Gunn Kieklak Dennis LLP, our team of experienced Fort Smith, AR criminal defense lawyers have years of experience under their belts fighting to protect the rights and livelihoods of clients like you. We understand that you are looking not only for someone to get your charges dismissed or downgraded, but also for a compassionate guide through the often-confusing Arkansas legal system. Call our firm today at (479) 439-9840 for a confidential consultation with one of our attorneys.
The Criminal Process in Fort Smith, AR
Most people think of the criminal process as beginning when they are arrested, but this is not always the case. Oftentimes, the police conduct a thorough investigation prior to making an arrest which can include attempts to search your home or interview you. In these situations, you should always contact an attorney. Anytime the police want to interview you, even if they say you are not being charged, you should be sure to have a lawyer present for questioning so that your words cannot be twisted and used against you in the future.
Arraignment and Pretrial Release Inquiry
After you are arrested, you will have a court appearance known as an arraignment. At the arraignment the judge will read the charges against you, inform you of your rights, and ask if you want to plead guilty or not guilty. It is always a good idea to plead not guilty at this stage so your lawyer can request discovery to see how strong the State’s case is and file any necessary motions, such as a motion to suppress evidence that was illegally obtained.
Either prior to or immediately following your arraignment, you may have what is known as a “pretrial release inquiry.” This is essentially a hearing to decide if you will be released pending the resolution of your matter or if you will have to stay in jail while the process plays out. For less serious crimes, the judge may simply release you on your own recognizance, or without bail. For more serious charges, you will likely be held or released on bail. Factors used to determine the amount of bail to be set include the nature of your charge, your employment and financial history, your status and reputation in the community, and whether you have been previously convicted of a crime.
Pre-Trial Plea Bargaining and Hearings
At this point in the process, your attorney will speak with the prosecutor to attempt to negotiate a plea deal, where you plead to lesser charges or are promised a lesser punishment in exchange for giving up your right to trial. The attorneys at our firm have good relationships with the prosecutors and know how to advocate for the best deal you can get.
If significant time passes and the attorneys have not yet reached a deal, an “omnibus hearing” will be held where the judge will ask how the case is proceeding, rule on any motions, and make sure both sides are complying with their discovery obligations to turn over documents. In cases where the trial is unusually complicated, an additional pretrial conference will be scheduled to check in with the parties.
Trial and Sentencing
If the prosecutor does not offer an adequate plea bargain or if you do not wish to accept a deal, a trial date will be set. Anyone charged with a misdemeanor or felony in Arkansas has the right to a trial by jury. If you waive this right, you will have a trial before a judge, where the judge decides guilt or innocence. Your attorney can help you decide which type of trial is best for your case.
At trial, you will get the opportunity to tell your side of the story. Your attorney and the State’s attorney will each present their case, including witnesses and evidence. At the end, the judge or jury will decide to convict you or acquit you of the crime. A jury can only convict if all members agree; if all members cannot agree to a verdict, a mistrial is declared.
If you are convicted, you will have a separate sentencing hearing where the court decides what penalty to impose on you. An experienced Fort Smith, AR criminal defense lawyer like those at Gunn Kieklak Dennis LLP can prepare evidence of your good reputation and acts and advocate for a lesser sentence for you.
Penalties for Criminal Convictions in Fort Smith, AR
Crimes in Arkansas are separated into two classes: misdemeanors and felonies. A misdemeanor is the less serious of the two types of charges but can still come with serious penalties and will go on your criminal record. Arkansas misdemeanors include public intoxication, reckless driving, prostitution, theft of property worth $1000 or less, and assault (unless it is classified as aggravated assault, in which case it is a felony).
Felonies are more serious charges and, if convicted of a felony, you can face long jail sentences and large fines. Arkansas felonies include murder, rape, domestic violence, drug trafficking, arson, and robbery.
Call Our Skilled Fort Smith, AR Criminal Defense Lawyers for a Consultation
At Gunn Kieklak Dennis LLP, we understand that the day you are charged with a crime may very well be the worst day of your life. Our Fort Smith, AR criminal defense lawyers are compassionate, caring, and always available to answer any questions you may have about the process. We will fight for you in court and do everything in our power to ensure that your case is brought to a speedy and successful conclusion. If you or a loved one has been arrested and charged with a crime in Fort Smith, call our attorneys today at (479) 439-9840 for a confidential legal consultation.