Know Your Rights – Answers To Basic Criminal Defense Questions
Being arrested, especially the first time, can feel confusing, frightening and overwhelming. But knowledge is power, particularly in the criminal justice system.
Matt Weber, attorney for Weber Law Firm, L.C., has years of experience defending clients against criminal charges ranging from shoplifting to drug trafficking. He deals directly with all clients. He uses his familiarity with Missouri courts and his trial experience to craft strategies that protect a client’s due process rights and minimize the disruption and damage to their lives.
Here are some answers to some of the most common questions that Matt hears in his office in St. Peters. If you have additional questions, request an appointment with Matt by calling 636-487-4139 or using our online intake form.
What are my rights in the criminal justice system?
The U.S. Constitution has several amendments in its Bill of Rights that impact how a defendant in a criminal case is treated, including:
- The Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable search and seizure by police.
- The Fifth Amendment prohibits self-incrimination and protects against “double jeopardy” (being tried twice for the same crime).
- The Sixth Amendment guarantees the right to a “speedy and public trial,” the assistance of an attorney, and the right to call witnesses on one’s behalf.
- The Eighth Amendment prohibits excessive bail amounts and cruel and unusual punishment for a crime.
The criminal defense attorney you hire should always advise you of what your rights are and what legal options exist for you, given your specific circumstances.
What happens after an arrest warrant is issued?
When you are arrested by police, you are required to identify yourself and show identification documents. You will be taken into custody, photographed and fingerprinted. You may be asked to give a statement to the police. You may also be arraigned at that time, during which a judge will read the charges against you and ask you if you understand them. He or she may set bail at that time or release you on your own recognizance.
Do I need to give a statement to the police?
As the Miranda Warning states, you have the right to remain silent during questioning by law enforcement. You should invoke this right until you are able to contact a criminal defense attorney to be present during questioning.
What is an appeal? Am I eligible for appeal?
An appeal is a request from a defendant to have a higher court review their case. To file a criminal appeal in Missouri, there must be grounds, such as suppressed or undiscovered evidence, inadequate counsel or misconduct by jurors.
An attorney can help you determine what type of appeal will be most effective. All types of appeals have strict deadlines, so communicating clearly with your lawyer about filing an appeal should be done as soon as possible.
Can I seal or expunge my criminal record?
Missouri passed several laws that went into effect in 2021 and 2022 that expanded the types of criminal records that can be sealed or expunged. Once a criminal record has been sealed, the defendant can legally decline to disclose it in most instances.
Many crimes are still not covered by recent changes in the expungement laws, including Class A felonies, many sex offenses, and certain types of assault and domestic assault convictions. In all circumstances, the expungement process can be difficult to navigate, so it is best to consult with an experienced Missouri criminal defense attorney to determine if you qualify. He or she can also represent you during expungement actions.