Often, we get calls from potential clients who have been charged with a crime and of course they tend to be worried. “I have been charged with a crime, so is it over for me?” The answer to this question is no, but it is not a simple no.
In this blog, we will talk about criminal charges, what they mean, and what the consequences are. We will also remind you that charges and convictions are two different things, as well as that the presumption of innocence should never be forgotten. Like all of our blogs however, this is intended for information purposes only and would be a very poor substitute for consulting a criminal defense attorney.
A criminal charge and a criminal conviction are not the same thing
When a government official or most other people for that matter, are speaking about criminal records, they are referring to criminal convictions not criminal charges. Criminal charges are just the first step in a process that can end in a dismissal, a plea, or a criminal trial.
The outcome matters, and no real determinations are made until the process is over. It is the government’s burden to prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Only if or when that happens are you no longer an innocent person.
Example: You have been charged with a DWI and you are worried about the several consequences of that. Well, other than the civil revocation, or separate consequences of a willful refusal if that applies, you are not punished for simply being charged. You will not be punished for the DWI before your case is resolved.
What should I do once I have been charged with a crime?
If you have been charged with a crime you should say nothing to anyone about your case, any of the facts and circumstances of your case, or anything related to the charges. Any statement you make to anyone at all can be considered an admission that can be used against you later.
Additionally, you should hire an attorney or ask that one be appointed to you as soon as possible. That period from the time you are charged until the time your case is resolved Is very important to keep you from getting a conviction.
Charges still matter
Criminal charges still matter when it comes to many aspects of your life and your future. We have spoken about the collateral consequences of criminal convictions before, but charges themselves can still show up on a background check when applying for certain jobs. This what it is important to get an expunction any time you can whenever you have been charged with a crime.
Expunctions for the charges not only eliminate most government records of the charge, but of the arrest, and the incarceration, if any that occurred with it. This is a much better option than trying to explain something away that showed up on background check.
Criminal law can be quite complicated and often requires professional assistance. If you have been charged with a crime in North Carolina or South Carolina, contact us.