18th December 2017 | BIll Sand
Facing criminal charges can be intimidating. For many people, being arrested, questioned by law enforcement, or charged with a crime comes as a surprise and may be that person’s first interaction with the criminal justice system. On the other hand, the state’s prosecutors are in court every day prosecuting thousands of offenses each year. In our adversarial court system, the state is a sophisticated, expert adversary with essentially unlimited resources.
It is important to understand the different stages of a criminal prosecution and the various players involved. Most charges originate with a law enforcement agency, such as the local police department or the county sheriff’s office. The law enforcement agency may arrest a person or issue a citation which starts the process. The case is then handed off to the prosecutor. Most often, the prosecutor will be from the State’s Attorney’s Office. In Minot, this will be the Ward County State’s Attorney. If the alleged crime is federal, the prosecutor will be from the office of the United States Attorney for the District of North Dakota. Ultimately, the decision to press charges is solely in the hands of the prosecutor – not the hands of law enforcement or the alleged victim. Regardless of what the citation from the police or the initial arrest report might say, the prosecutor will choose the actual offense to charge.
Notably, the idea that the alleged victim of the crime has the choice to “press charges” is largely a myth. All criminal cases are set up as the “State v. the Defendant”. The cooperation of the victim in prosecuting the crime is not necessary for the state to proceed with the case. This is especially true in charges of domestic violence, where the prosecutor often moves forward with the case even when the alleged victim is not interested in pursuing charges. Likewise, the initial interaction with law enforcement that led to the arrest or citation often has very little impact on the disposition of the case.
The upside of this system, known as prosecutorial discretion, is that it creates room for a defense attorney to work with the prosecutor starting before charges are formally filed and continuing throughout the process.
One of the immediate advantages of securing defense representation promptly is that it changes the approach taken by the prosecutor. As we mentioned earlier, the state is used to their position as the giant in the room with overwhelming resources and experience. The state takes advantage of most people’s unfamiliarity with the legal system to earn easy “wins.” Competent representation by a criminal defense attorney safeguards that the prosecution will respect your rights and deal with you on a fair footing.
It is also important to realize that most criminal charges involve multiple court appearances over the course of many months. From the initial appearance where the defendant must simply enter a plea of guilty or not guilty, through evidentiary hearings and multiple motions, a criminal proceeding can eat up a massive amount of time. This is another area where the state relies on its advantage: the prosecutor does not need to miss work and travel to make court appearances. The state uses this pressure to compel many people to take less-than-ideal plea agreements. With proficient criminal defense representation from Sand Law, you will likely be able to waive many of the preliminary court appearances and you will never be pressured to take a deal that is anything less than you deserve.
Sand Law’s aggressive criminal defense attorneys level the playing field and fight so that you receive the full protection of your constitutional rights. Our reputation in Ward County and across the state often allows us to work with the prosecuting attorney to reduce or even dismiss charges early in the judicial process. Whatever situation you are facing, do not let the state overwhelm you. Contact Sand Law today for a free consultation.