Criminal Defense Attorneys in Raleigh & Asheville North Carolina
If you or a loved one has been charged with a felony, you need to understand there are no fixed rules on how it should be handled. Every step in the process depends on the individual facts and circumstances surrounding the case.
What you need to know early on is that time may be of the essence. Typically, the earlier an attorney is engaged in a case, the better. This does not mean you need to hire the first attorney you speak to. On the contrary, hiring the right lawyer late is better than hiring the wrong lawyer early. Still, you should keep in mind that most lawyers offer free consultations on criminal matters, and you should take advantage of that sooner rather than later.
What to Expect After An Arrest
What can you expect out of the court system once you have been charged? Immediately following an arrest (within the first few hours), the defendant will be seen by a magistrate to determine the initial conditions of release — also known as the bond. In setting a bond, magistrates will consider factors such as the seriousness of the charge, the criminal history of the defendant, ties the defendant has to the community, any history of failure to appear in previous court matters, and the like. The focus in setting a bond is twofold: (1) ensuring the defendant’s presence in court and (2) the safety of the community.
The first court appearance after someone is charged with a felony is appropriately called a first appearance. The purpose of the first appearance is for the court to advise the defendant of the charges, the maximum penalty for those charges, and to inquire as to whether the defendant wishes to apply for a public defender. The first appearance is also when the court may review the bond that was set by the magistrate.
Probable Cause Date and Motions and Arraignment
Approximately 20 days after the first appearance, a probable cause date is set in District Court. In busier counties, actual probable cause hearings are rare despite the clear language of the statute outlining this important aspect of criminal procedure. The probable cause hearing is supposed to be the mechanism where the prosecutors demonstrate to the court that they have sufficient evidence for the charges against the defendant. As a practical matter, busier counties use a grand jury indictment to satisfy this requirement and instead use the probable cause date as an opportunity to resolve a significant number of cases via plea.
Most serious charges are resolved in superior court. Following an indictment, a case is set on a calendar called the Motions and Arraignment calendar (M&A). The M&A calendar is an administrative setting to ensure that discovery is being received and to outline any pretrial issues that need to be resolved. Absent a defendant waiving arraignment, it is also a time to officially enter a plea before the court (usually not guilty at this point) and to set a potential trial date.
Following the M&A date (and some cases have multiple M&A dates) – the case should be set on the trial calendar. Being on the trial calendar does not necessarily mean that the case will go to trial that week – only that it is in line to do so. It is not uncommon to be on a trial calendar for a week and not to have your case heard – especially in busier counties.
Fay & Grafton has represented hundreds of expungement cases in North Carolina
You should act now to protect your rights — and your future — by discussing your legal goals in detail with our attorneys.
Even if you were previously convicted of a crime that is not eligible for expungement, there may still be an avenue to clean your criminal record. We can review your case to ensure that the procedure used to convict you was valid and file a Motion for Appropriate Relief in cases where legal grounds exist to strike a prior judgment. Contact us to learn more about how to clear your record — and to arrange your confidential initial consultation.
Non U.S. Citizens should never apply for an expungement without first talking to an immigration attorney. Contact our offices to set up a consult.
Attorneys around the state often refer their clients to our firm when a criminal record needs to be cleaned. Not every record can be cleaned, but we do have a proven track record of success. Contact us to set up a time to talk about your record.
Contact Fay & Grafton today to arrange the important initial consultation. Call or use our online contact form. We welcome the opportunity to serve you.