18th May 2017 | Sand Law, PLLC
Being charged with a crime is a serious event. Whether you have been charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, there are a number of consequences that you may be facing. Charges carry with them the potential for things such as jail time, fines, fees, community service, supervised probation, chemical testing, and a host of other possibilities. In North Dakota, there are several things everyone needs to understand in case they are arrested.
THE INVESTIGATION AND ARREST
Being charged with a crime generally begins here. A law enforcement officer at the municipal, county, state, or federal level begins by investigating a potential crime. Investigations can vary in length from minutes to months depending on the alleged crime. For instance, a DUI investigation generally lasts somewhere between 15 and 20 minutes. The officer pulls a car over, suspects that the driver has been drinking, and then administers field-sobriety tests in order to establish probable cause for an arrest. However, investigations relating to crimes such as drug distribution, financial crimes like embezzlement, or improper sexual conduct can last weeks and even months. The reason for this is because law enforcement is building a case by surveillance of the suspect, interviewing witnesses, and collecting data. These types of investigations generally occur in more serious felony cases and Federal cases.
After probable cause has been established, law enforcement can then arrest the suspect and take them into custody. Once the suspect has been arrested they are entitled to certain constitutional rights such as the right to an attorney and the right to remain silent. This is where we come in. At Sand Law, we always advise our clients not to speak to law enforcement without having an attorney present. There are many nuances and technicalities in the law the members of the general public are unaware of that can significantly hinder their ability to defend themselves against the charges – regardless of whether they are innocent or guilty.
When taken into custody the suspect goes through a booking process where fingerprints and photographs are taken of the individual for record keeping.
The suspect may then be released by paying a bail amount or their case may be set for a bond hearing in front of a judge depending on the severity of the charges.
The Bond Hearing
If a suspect is not released by law enforcement subsequent to their arrest, then the first appearance the individual will make is at a bond hearing. At the bond hearing the judge will consider arguments from both the defendant or their lawyer and the prosecution. In determining the amount and conditions of bail, the judge will take into consideration factors such as public safety threats, the defendant’s criminal history, the defendant’s ties to the community, and whether the defendant is a flight risk. Along with a monetary amount (e.g. $10,000), the judge may assign certain conditions to an individual’s release. Some common conditions include a no contact order to any victims in the case, that the defendant not consume alcohol during the case, or that the defendant must where a drug patch to ensure that they stay sober. These conditions stay in effect until the case is closed unless the defendant is able to give good cause to the court that they should be modified.
Pretrial Court Appearances
The majority of all misdemeanor criminal cases in North Dakota include a first appearance, pretrial hearing(s), and a trial. For felony cases, every defendant is entitled to a contested preliminary hearing. These generally consist of the arresting law enforcement officer taking the stand and testifying in court. The defendant has a right to cross-examine the officer in an attempt to show the court that there is not probable cause in the case. If the judge determines that there is not enough evidence to establish probable cause, then the case is dismissed. However, if the judge determines that there is adequate probable cause – then the defendant is bound over for trial.
Depending on the jurisdiction the case is being held, many court appearances in North Dakota are waivable under Rule 45. This allows the defendant’s attorney to appear on behalf of the defendant at court appearances without the requirement of the defendant being present. In order to achieve this, the defendant needs to sign certain releases and paperwork with his or her lawyer.
MOTION WORK – The Sand Law Approach
At the start of any criminal case, we will submit a Rule 16 discovery demand to the state’s attorney. Under North Dakota law, this allows us to collect all of the evidence the state has against the you. Evidence usually consists of police report, audio/video recordings, witness statements, chemical test results, photographs, or lab reports. At this point multiple attorneys and support staff will go through your file with a fine-toothed comb looking for any factual, constitutional, statutory, or other legal issues that we can raise to the court. If there are substantive issues in the case, we then draft a motion to suppress or dismiss certain evidence. Often times the evidence we seek to suppress has to do with statements or actions made by our clients that may be incriminating to the case. Other examples include chemical test results or physical evidence that is unreliable.
The suppression or dismissal of evidence in a criminal case is an important tool because it weakens the prosecutions ability to convince a jury at trial that the defendant is guilty. This brings us to the next stage in the process – negotiating.
In almost every criminal case in North Dakota there are plea negotiations between the prosecution and the defense. Effective plea negotiating often starts with the client and what they are hoping happens with the case. Many times the client does not want a felony conviction on their record so we will negotiate the charges down to a misdemeanor level or seek a deferred judgement – which results in the charges being ultimately dismissed subject to certain conditions. Other times clients want to avoid jail time. We may then propose that the client perform community service or some other form of service. Regardless of the negotiation it is always the client’s decision whether to settle the case or to proceed to trial in the case.
In North Dakota every person charged with a crime has the right to take their case to a jury trial. Our attorneys are very experienced in trying cases to juries. See our CASE RESULTS section of our website to see some of our impressive victories. At trial, the State’s Attorney has to prove to the jury beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty of the offense you have been accused of. We take a proactive approach and establish our side of the story instead of sitting back and reacting to the prosecutions allegations. This is the Sand Law difference.
If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime in North Dakota, CONTACT US today to schedule a free consultation. Let us help you decide what legal options are available.