At Panella Law Firm, we know the stakes are high when your life collides with the criminal justice system. You need a criminal defense attorney who will fight hard for a favorable outcome in your case, whether that means dismissed charges, an attractive plea bargain, or a reduced sentence. Sometimes the criminal justice system can feel overwhelming to you or your loved ones, so we’ve simplified the process here by creating an infographic that shows the flow of a criminal case from start to finish. While each client is different, there’s a pattern that most cases follow. We hope this is helpful.
Through an encounter with law enforcement, you’ve been arrested and are either out on bail or are sitting in jail.
You, a family member, or friend contacts our law firm day or night via phone call, online form, answering service, chat, or referral. Our legal team is notified, even if you contact us after business hours. We respond quickly, because we know any criminal situation is serious and your freedom may hang in the balance. Late-night phone calls are common in our legal practice. Our legal assistant will gather some initial information and then connect you with an attorney or set up an appointment to speak. We typically offer free consultations in most cases.
We’ll listen to your side of the story, determine if we can help you, and assess whether we’re a good fit to serve as your criminal defense attorney. If we agree that our law firm will represent you, then we’ll move forward.
You retain our law firm by signing a written agreement, and we’ll generate a digital invoice with the terms, scope of the representation, and financial arrangements. Then we’ll email this invoice directly to you or send it to your phone, whichever is better for you. We can meet in person, virtually, or just talk on the phone to complete this process, whatever is most efficient. You pay us an agreed-upon retainer. We inform the court and prosecutor’s office that we are your attorney of record. We file notice of appearance.
We understand that a lot of people who’ve been arrested, or their family members, need reassurance that they’re in good hands and there’s a plan in place. That’s what we do. We’re tough attorneys, and we know the law. We’ll work overtime to create a legal strategy that gives you the best chance at success. We work to earn your trust.
If you’re incarcerated, we’ll visit you in jail with our credentials. If you’re not incarcerated, we’ll determine a location to meet in person. At this point, we want to hear about who you are as a person, what’s going on in your life, do you go to church, do you go to school, do you have a job, what are your hobbies, do you have a family, what worries keep you awake at night, etc. Tell us your story. Next, tell us what happened that led to the arrest. We want an open dialogue. You’re a human being, not a case number.
Depending on where you are in the legal process, we’ll fight AGGRESSIVELY AND FEARLESSLY for your rights. No matter what stage of the legal process – arraignment, bond hearing, pre-trial conference, trial – our fierce attorneys will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with you.
We’ll mail out evidence preservation letters to all appropriate parties to ensure evidence is not destroyed. This evidence can include police body cam, surveillance video, and other critical evidence that can help your defense.
This is where the nitty-gritty of our research and investigation begins. Our attorneys will locate and track down verified information that can be used to prove your case, such as receipts, witnesses, audio phone transcripts, geofencing data, text message logs, location and GPS data, Facebook posts, Instagram photos – anything that can disprove the prosecution’s case against you. We’ll find any information that could be helpful to you.
This is the first court date after you hire us. We have done so much research about your case before this date that we know more about the particulars in your case than anyone else. We have heard your story; we have reviewed everything in the original arrest affidavits; we’ve spoken to witnesses; we’ve tracked down video footage; and we know what the police narrative is in your case. Out of the gate, we’re ready to go.
This first court date could be 24-48 hours after your arrest for a hearing in which a judge reviews your probable cause affidavit. (Typically, bond is set at this time.) Or it could be a subsequent court date if you hired our law firm later in the process.
Your next court date is your arraignment in a felony case, which usually happens 3-6 weeks after your initial request. We will attend the arraignment and represent you. This is where you enter a plea of not guilty, no contest, or guilty. This plea is almost always not guilty, but not every time. We can also waive the arraignment and enter a written plea of not guilty. We will also file a demand for discovery, which means the state must produce every single piece of evidence they have against you. Additionally, we will file a request for a jury trial, though that doesn’t necessarily mean your case will go to trial – we’re simply preserving your right to do so.
At this point, we encourage you to just breathe. Take a moment, relax. Just chill. After a bit, we’ll recommend some next steps for you to take, which can include enrolling in particular classes, seeing a psychiatrist, participating in community service, attending substance abuse meetings, etc. It can also include talking to your family, friends, pastor, neighbors, teachers, community leaders and collecting character reference letters on your behalf from people who will stand behind you. You might put together a list of witnesses with their phone numbers so we can talk to them. Perhaps you begin gathering funds so you can start making restitution, if appropriate. We want you to be an active participant in your defense.
Understand that as your attorney, we respect you and we extend a lot of grace. Our job is to put together a case that shows you as a human being, who may or may not have simply made a mistake. We will never discount you. We will always hear you out.
From start to finish, your attorney will continue to negotiate with the prosecutor’s office on motions and other filings, always rebuffing claims prosecutors cannot prove and challenging their assumptions. We will introduce facts during our negotiations that support your claim of not guilty. This is where our preparation, hard work, and years of experience benefit you.
We want clients to be active participants in their own defense. You know things about your life and situation that we don’t know unless you tell us. You’re able to find out things among your friends and family, neighborhood, workplace, and elsewhere, and we may ask you to find out facts and information that can bolster your defense. We welcome your ideas. We want you to contribute and collaborate with us. The good, the bad, the ugly – we don’t care; we want to hear it. Any information you gather can help your case.
We will issue subpoenas for any information that is not readily given to us. This compels police, witnesses and others to respond promptly, regardless of whether or not they want to.
Both your attorney and the prosecutor’s office will take depositions, which are interviews under oath. People who may be deposed can include witnesses, police officers, victims, and you. We will attend your deposition with you.
At this point, you must decide whether to accept a plea offer/reduced sentence or turn it down and pursue a courtroom trial in front of a judge and jury. We will advise you about your options and give you our legal opinion. You’ll always be at the center of any decision making, and ultimately the choice is yours.
In some cases we can get a case thrown out altogether. If not, you can accept a negotiated plea deal, which could include probation, community service, restitution, and/or a fine in less serious cases. Or you might accept a reduced sentence in which you plead guilty to a lesser charge and spend a shorter amount of time in prison/jail. We will fight aggressively for the best resolution possible.
Your lawyer at Panella Law Firm will fiercely argue your case in front of a judge and jury to prove elements in the case that benefit you. We will use our deep knowledge of your life and the facts on hand to place you in a favorable light. The prosecutor will argue their case. We’ll use all our skills to discredit the prosecutor’s case, question the validity of their evidence, and look for holes in their argument.
The jury will reach a decision in your case.