Pre Charge Processes

What happens when I am charged with a crime?
A person may be charged with a crime before they are arrested. If this happens, either a citation/summons will be issued, which will tell you when to appear for Court, or a judge will issue a warrant for your arrest. A police officer will attempt to locate the person who is the subject of the warrant. When a person is taken into police custody, they have the right to speak with an attorney before answering any questions. Once you have been taken into custody, you will have an initial appearance the next morning at which time a judge will decide whether or not to set bail or to release you on your own recognizance.
What should I wear to court?
A person may be charged with a crime before they are arrested. If this happens, either a citation/summons will be issued, which will tell you when to appear for Court, or a judge will issue a warrant for your arrest. A police officer will attempt to locate the person who is the subject of the warrant. When a person is taken into police custody, they have the right to speak with an attorney before answering any questions. Once you have been taken into custody, you will have an initial appearance the next morning at which time a judge will decide whether or not to set bail or to release you on your own recognizance.
How Long Do Criminal Cases Take To Resolve?
If you are charged with a crime, a number of factors determine how long it will take to resolve your case. Depending on the severity of your charge and whether or not you are incarcerated, your matter could be resolved in a few weeks or could take several months. Throughout the process there are several important deadlines, such as the timeframe for your arraignment and your right to a speedy trial. It is vital that you consult with a criminal attorney to better understand your rights and these timelines.
Do I have to go to trial?
Whether or not you got to trial will be your decision as the Defendant. After your attorney reviews the discovery, or evidence against you, he or she will be able to discuss your best options moving forward. Often the prosecutor may offer a plea agreement, and your attorney will be able to walk you through the pros and cons of such agreements. After reviewing the evidence, any plea agreements, and discussing the case further with your attorney, it will be your decision whether or not to proceed to trial.
When can the police search me?
Because you have a constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches or seizures, there are limited circumstances where the police can lawfully search you. That is, the police can search you when you consent to a search, when they believe that you have illegal substances or weapons on your person, and when you have been lawfully arrested or detained.

First, police can search you if you give them “consent” to search you. The police can also conduct a “pat down” search if they have a reasonable suspicion that you are armed. If the police have probable cause to believe you are carrying illegal substances or are otherwise engaged in a crime, the police can conduct a search. Finally, upon a lawful arrest or detainment, the police can search you and your “wingspan” for the crime of arrest, for evidence, instrumentalities and fruits of that crime, and for any other crimes in which the police have developed probable cause.

What are my rights when I am interacting with the police?
The police may approach you and ask questions without any suspicion but are also authorized to stop you and question you for investigative purposes when they reasonably suspect that you have committed a crime, are about to commit a crime, or when they see you committing a crime.

When speaking with the police, be respectful. Do not run, argue, resist or obstruct the police, and always keep your hands where the police can see them. If you are being arrested, you will be read your Miranda Rights, which includes the right to remain silent and to have a lawyer present when questioned. These rights are not automatic and must be expressed to the police to be invoked. Any additionally information which you volunteer will be used against you.

If you are unsure whether you are free to leave or not, ask. If they say no, then you have the right to know why and the right to remain silently. If the police say you are free to leave, then calmy and silently walk away. As a pedestrian in Iowa, there is no law requiring you to give your name if you are asked to identify yourself during a temporary stop. In all instances though, you should be as respectful as possible while also asserting your rights. If the law has been broken, we will use that in your defense and to argue that the evidence should be thrown out. What will not help your case is when you try and argue with the police at the scene. You should simply be respectful in asserting your rights and keep quiet.

What should I do after I have been arrested?
After you are arrested you should politely refuse to answer any more questions and ask for an attorney. If you were arrested and released, you should write down as much as you remember and save any documentation that was provided to you. These documents are very important because they specify where and when you must attend court to address your charges and will also help your attorney mount your defense.

Hiring A Criminal Lawyer

If I am innocent should I get a lawyer?
If you have been charged with a criminal offence or suspect that you are being investigated for a criminal offence, you should still get a lawyer even if you are innocent. The criminal justice system is complicated and an experienced attorney will be able to guide you through the process. When you are charged with a crime, it is the State’s burden to prove you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Having an attorney at your side from the beginning of the case ensures that your rights are protected, and proper procedure is followed by the State.
What happens at an initial consultation?

At the initial consultation the attorney will generally ask you to give him or her a brief description of what you need help with.  At this point, the attorney is not looking for the whole story, but a brief summary.  He or she will then ask you a series of targeted questions in order to determine: The nature of your legal issue; 

• Your legal options; 
• Whether the attorney can assist you; 
• Your prospects of success; and
• The amount of work that will be required to achieve your goals, and the cost associated with such work. 

At this point, the attorney will try not to go into more detail than is necessary for him or her to make these judgments.  More detailed fact gathering will occur after the initial consultation if you decide to hire the attorney.  

Once the attorney has an understanding of your case, he or she will typically let you know what your legal options are, your prospects of success in achieving your goals, and how much he or she expects this to cost.  

The attorney will generally tell you the next steps in your case and tell you how much he or she will require as a retainer if you would like to move forward.  A retainer is basically a down payment for the attorney’s work.  It is kept in a trust account and remains your money and refundable until the attorney earns it. 

The initial consultation is a great time to ask the attorney any questions that you have, including questions about his or her experience with cases like yours.  Attorneys will usually not answer specific legal questions until you have retained them, but they may answer general legal questions for the purpose of assisting you with the decision about whether to move forward with your matter.   

Should I hire a lawyer from the same place as where the court appearance is?

There are advantages and disadvantages to hiring a lawyer from the same place where you were charged with an offence. If you have been charged in a rural area, it is possible that a local lawyer will not have the same degree of specialization in a particular area of law as a lawyer from a bigger city who practices that field of law exclusively.

The advantage to hiring a local lawyer is that the lawyer has a greater familiarity with the day-to-day idiosyncrasies of that area, and will also have a greater familiarity with the other attorneys and Court clerks working in the area.


Why choose a law firm? (How to choose a law firm?)

Most people rarely need an attorney and do not know how to choose one. These pointers can help.

Ability & Service
First and foremost, a law firm should have the ability to obtain the results you deserve. They should also provide you with good service. Study the credentials and background of the firm’s attorneys. Review their website. Speak with the lawyers. How are you treated? Are your phone calls returned?

Does the law firm have a strong track record as successful litigators? Substantial trial experience is important. Be aware that many lawyers have little to none. Even though most cases settle out of court, you will be in a stronger bargaining position during settlement talks if the other side knows your lawyers have the track record to beat them at trial.

In addition to a track record of strong results, do they have the skills that matter? Not all law firms are created equal. Some are better at certain types of cases, while others have unique skills, such as negotiation. While most cases settle before trial, you do not automatically get what you deserve; you get what you earn. So think what specialized training does the firm have and how is it reflected in the firm’s results.

Bigger Doesn’t Mean Better
When choosing a law firm, bigger does not mean better. Many larger firms need to run on volume just to cover their overhead and have large bureaucracies that are difficult for their clients to navigate. Cases may be processed in batches, so the unique aspects of each client are lost in the shuffle. When your lawyer is not paying attention to you, it is easy to become frustrated and dissatisfied. Make sure when your lawyer is talking to you that you’re the most important client he or she has.

How will I be kept informed of my case?
Things often move quickly and there will be much to discuss as discovery is taking place, testimony is being drafted, and preparations are under way for a hearing. Often, settlement discussions take place that require communications with the client. We will strive to keep you informed when anything important happens. You can expect us to respond to your email or phone calls in a reasonable time and keep you updated when you are required to respond to discovery or be present at a hearing.
What do I do when I have a question?

Once you have found an attorney to handle an issue, you may be wondering what to expect with regards to lawyer communication, competence, ethics, and fees. This article outlines these topics and provides useful tips and rules regarding what you can expect from your attorney.

Lawyer Communication
Lawyer communication refers to the correspondence and communication between a client and his/her attorney. If you have a lawyer communication problem, you may be wondering if you have a bad attorney or if he or she is doing a poor job on your case. You should know that many states have laws regarding when and how a lawyer must communicate with clients. In general, you can expect to get a general overview of your case whenever you request it from your attorney. In addition, you can expect your attorney to call you back or return your emails in a timely manner. If your attorney does not respond within a business day, he or she should provide you with a reason why they were unable to answer your question (typically, it’s because your lawyer is in court).

If your attorney fails to communicate effectively with you, then you may have valid cause for your worries. When speaking or leaving a message with your attorney, you should be clear about your concerns so that the problem can be remedied. If your attorney is not responsive to your concerns, then you may want to consider finding alternative legal representation.

What will the legal service cost?

The cost of legal services is determined on a variety of factors. Some legal services are charged a flat fee, while others are billed at an hourly rate which depends on the attorney which you choose and their level of experience. For example, an initial consultation is $100 regardless of the lawyer who sits in with you or the matter which you present. During the initial consultation, we will have the opportunity to learn the details about your case and communicate the forecasted cost to you.

Can money be held “in trust” by my attorney?
Yes. Upon our receipt, all client funds are held in a trust account. While in the trust account that money is still yours. Those funds are held and will be used to pay court costs, filing fees, and our own hourly rate as those fees accrue and are earned.
What information do you need to get me started?
At Cray Law PLC we have a variety of specialized intake forms in the office so that we can quickly get a handle on your case and provide you with the most efficacious legal representation. However, you can fill out this General Intake Form if you would like to get started today.