This guide provides a list of the top 5 things for you to remember if you have been accused of a crime in North Dakota
I've been contacted by someone with law enforcement. Do I have to talk to them?
No. You are never legally obligated to speak to law enforcement if you don't want to. You should politely decline to speak with them and, instead, advise them you'd like to speak with a lawyer.
How will I know if/when I'm going to be charged?
You would either receive a citation written by the officer or a Complaint issued by the State's Attorney. These documents would identify what you are being charged with. If a Complaint is used it would either be accompanied by a Summons or a Warrant. The Summons just requires that you appear in court on your own, at a designated date and time. A Warrant would require that you be arrested before you appear in court. A Summons is usually used when the offense is a misdemeanor or a non-violent felony. A Warrant is usually used when the offense is a violent offense or one of several more serious felonies.
How do I know if I need a lawyer?
Many attorneys offer free consultations prior to hiring to help you assess whether or not you will need an attorney in your case. If you are accused of a crime you should always at least consult with an attorney before going to court. Having an attorney ensures that your rights are protected and that you are able to make informed decisions throughout the process.
How do I choose an attorney and how much will it cost?
The internet is a great way to find lawyers, including sites such as Avvo.com. Most lawyers will have websites that will outline their practice areas and experience, so you should definitely look at those as well. For criminal cases, you will want an attorney who has trial experience and who works regularly in the area of criminal law. As stated above, many lawyers offer free consultations. You should definitely call around and consult with different lawyers to get a feel for whether a particular attorney would be a good fit for you. The relationship you have with your attorney is an important one and can last a while as your case moves forward. You want to be sure that you are getting someone who not only knows what they are doing, but is someone you feel comfortable working with. A lawyer's fee depends on a variety of factors including (but not limited to) the location of the case, the seriousness and nature of the offense(s), the lawyer's experience level, and the amount of time that the lawyer believes it will take to handle the case properly.
What can I expect once I've hired an attorney?
Once you've hired a lawyer, he or she will be request all the evidence in your case, communicate with you about possible defenses and strategies, file motions as appropriate, advise you of different court hearings, negotiate with the prosecution for the best possible resolution, and go to trial on the case if a fair resolution cannot be reached for one reason or another. Your lawyer will also be available for questions throughout the process, and will keep you updated as to any developments in your case as they arise.
Additional resources provided by the author
Take a look at our website for more information about the criminal process in North Dakota.
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