While a misdemeanor is associated with harsh penalties, a felony conviction results in even more severe consequences. If you are convicted of a felony, you are likely to face prison time, fines, and a permanent mark on your criminal record that can cause substantial damage to your personal and professional reputation.
The following are important steps to take if you are facing a felony charge:
- Stay calm. While it may be difficult to suppress your emotions, it is imperative not to resist arrest. Resisting can make you appear guilty and could result in additional charges against you.
- Use your right to remain silent. The Fifth Amendment gives all of us the right to refuse to incriminate ourselves in a criminal case. If you are in custody, do not answer any questions and politely insist that you will not answer anything unless your lawyer is present.
- Get a hold of an attorney immediately. To successfully defend yourself against a felony charge, having a lawyer on your side can make a significant impact. If you are in custody without an attorney, the prosecution can take advantage of the situation and try to sell you on a plea bargain that does not serve your best interests. Having your own attorney evens the playing field, allowing you to avoid taking what it seems positive deal.
- Do not post bail without consulting with your lawyer. Many people post bail for a loved one as soon as they have been arrested. However, it is considered a mistake. Your attorney can review the facts of the case and determine whether bail can be lowered or if you can be released without posting it.
- Tell your attorney the truth. Anything you say to your lawyer will remain confidential. Provide an honest and detailed account of the events which transpired in order for your attorney to prepare the most effective and personalized defense strategy possible. If you can, write down everything that you can remember, as well as the list of witnesses that could possibly testify favorably on your behalf.
- Attend all court proceedings. While a person charged with a misdemeanor may elect to have their lawyer make any appearance in court in their place that is not the case if you were charged with a felony. You need to be present for the arraignment, the time of the plea, preliminary hearings, any portion of the trial where evidence is presented to the judge or jury, and the imposition of the sentence.
- Avoid discussing your case with family and friends. Unlike confidential conservations with your lawyer, discussions with your family and friends are not protected by confidentiality rules. Anything you say to them can be used against you.