Should I Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney Now or Wait?
This is a question frequently asked by clients when looking to hire a criminal defense lawyer for a relative, friend or themself. In my experience, the sooner an attorney from the Berry Law can enter an appearance in a criminal case, the more likely the results are going to be favorable for somebody charged with a serious felony.
Because attorneys from our office have represented clients from almost all of the major cities in Nebraska, we have a good relationship with many of the prosecutors across the state, especially prosecutors in cities bordering Interstate 80 such as Omaha, Lincoln, York, Grand Island, Kearney, Lexington, North Platte and Ogallala.
Having an attorney on your team who has a good relationship with a prosecutor can result in no charges being filed. In the event charges have been filed, a good attorney can argue for an early dismissal of the charges, or, at the very least, a chance to have an affordable bond set that helps ensure a quick release from jail.
After a person is arrested for a serious felony, the first hearing before a judge will usually occur within 48 hours. At that hearing, a probable cause determination will be made and a bond will be set. Having an attorney retained before the first court appearance provides an opportunity to argue the State lacks probable cause to detain the defendant. In the event the argument is successful, the court would order the immediate release of the defendant.
Even if the argument against probable cause is not successful, having an attorney at the first court hearing can help ensure any bond set by the court is reasonable. In the State of Nebraska, a person must post ten-percent (10%) of the bond amount in order to secure release. At the conclusion of the case, the amount of money posted will be refunded minus ten percent (10%) that the court keeps.
As an example, if a court sets a bond at $500,000.00 for a case involving conspiracy to distribute marijuana, a person must post ten-percent (10%) of that amount – $50,000.00 in order to be released. So long as the bond is not forfeited, at the conclusion of the case, the court would return $45,000.00 which is the original amount posted ($50,000.00) minus the ten-percent ($5,000.00).
Having an attorney on your team also helps ensure the bond amount set is something affordable. In our office, once we get hired, we immediately contact the prosecutor to see if we can agree on a bond amount that a client can afford. If the prosecutor and the defense attorney are in agreement as to the proper bond amount, the judge usually imposes the recommended bond.
In addition to arguing about the proper bond amount, having a criminal defense attorney at the first hearing also provides an opportunity to convince the judge that travel restrictions outside the State of Nebraska not be imposed.
As an example, some judges in Nebraska impose a condition on bond restricting defendant’s ability to travel outside the State of Nebraska. As many of our clients reside outside the State of Nebraska, it is important the bond provide exceptions for our clients to be allowed to travel out of Nebraska.