Should I Hire an Attorney for a Misdemeanor?
You might wonder, Should I hire an attorney for a misdemeanor? The answer is simple: yes, you need a lawyer to protect your rights anytime you face a criminal offense. You might be tempted to try to save money and represent yourself. But misdemeanor convictions carry grave consequences that could affect your life for years, so think carefully before trying to handle your case without professional help.
We have decades of experience defending misdemeanor charges at the New Mexico Criminal Law Offices. We are ready to guide you through the New Mexico criminal justice system and fight for your rights. We believe in defending each case based on your specific needs and circumstances. Contact us today to find out how our individualized approach can help you when you need it most.
Do I Need a Lawyer for a Misdemeanor?
New Mexico law divides crimes into three categories based on their severity. The categories are felonies, misdemeanors, and petty misdemeanors. Even though misdemeanors in New Mexico are less serious than felonies, you could still go to jail for up to one year and pay a fine of up to $1,000 after a conviction.
Just because you could go to jail does not necessarily mean you will go to jail if you get convicted. Judges weigh numerous factors when determining the appropriate penalty. Some of those factors include:
- The facts of the underlying incident;
- Whether anyone suffered any injuries;
- The impact the crime had on the victim;
- Whether anyone lost any money or had to pay money out-of-pocket;
- The extent of any property damage;
- Your criminal history;
- Your family, education, and employment history; and
- Community support.
Having a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side could help you achieve favorable results.
We know that everyone and every case is unique. We construct our defenses with your individual needs in mind. Cookie-cutter approaches do not work. We analyze and research your specific legal problem and sift through all the details to give you the best opportunity to beat your case.
How Could a Lawyer Help Me?
Even lawyers retain lawyers to represent them in criminal court. Why? Because the consequences of an unfavorable outcome in criminal court are severe. It’s not just money on the line as in civil court. Your very freedom is at stake.
What Can Happen If I Have a Conviction on My Record?
You should be aware of the difficulties you could encounter if you have a conviction on your background check. For example, you could find it difficult to get a good job, you might need help finding a better home or getting a mortgage, or you might find it difficult to advance your education. You could suffer adverse consequences if you are a licensed professional. Most professional licensing boards require you to report convictions to them, and many take adverse action against you—including revoking your license—because of a conviction.
You may find yourself in murky immigration waters after a misdemeanor conviction as well.
And keep in mind that criminal convictions do not go away. For example, a DUI conviction stays on your record forever. Therefore, you will face increased penalties if you ever face other DUI charges.
You Need Someone Who Knows the Law
Many people who try to handle their court cases without a lawyer face enormous problems because they do not understand the court system, the law, or how criminal procedure works. Non-lawyers do not understand how to accurately assess their chances of winning at trial and may think they can win based on erroneous assumptions that ultimately end in a conviction.
People who represent themselves often think they understand the facts better than a lawyer could because they have lived it. While that might be true, having a lawyer advocate for you is the best way to protect yourself because experienced lawyers understand the court system, the law, criminal procedure, and the rules of evidence. They know how to use the protections in the law favorably for their clients. And if the case goes to trial, they know how to mount a winning case.
Anyone can read the New Mexico statutes online or go to a law library to read case decisions. But trained and experienced lawyers know how to use that information to persuade judges and juries to find in their client’s favor.
Skilled lawyers also know how to negotiate with the prosecution for a better deal. Self-represented people do not know how to negotiate because they do not know anything about alternative dispositions or plea bargains that could help reduce their charges.
Why Should I Hire a Lawyer for a Misdemeanor?
Remember that our justice system is adversarial. The judge cannot help you, and the prosecutor is trying to convict you. They are not—and legally cannot—watch out for your best interests.
The judge and prosecutor must treat you fairly. They cannot and will not help you or give you legal advice. Also, the judge will expect you to know the law and act as an attorney should act in a courtroom. Representing yourself means you are alone, and no one else is on your side.
By contrast, hiring a lawyer ensures you have a strong, dedicated, and professional advocate who is on your side and looking out for your best interests. A knowledgeable lawyer will explain your constitutional protections, including your right to a jury trial, the right to confront and cross-examine witnesses, the right to compel witnesses to attend on your behalf, and your right to remain silent. They will know if you have a valid motion to suppress or any other pretrial motion that could help your case. Your attorney can also accurately assess your chances of winning at trial, and if your case goes to trial, your attorney is trained in the rules of evidence and knows how to mount a winning defense.
What About the Public Defender’s Office?
Asking for a public defender may not be an option for you. First, you may not qualify for a public defender if you make too much money. Moreover, public defenders are overworked and frequently underpaid. Their massive caseloads can easily overwhelm even the most dedicated public defender. They do a great job and play a much-needed role in our adversarial justice system—but one human being can only do so much for so many clients. Having a private attorney by your side can make all the difference in how your case turns out.
Don’t Take Chances with Your Future
Resisting the temptation to think you don’t need a lawyer if you face misdemeanor charges. Get the help you need to protect your legal rights by contacting us and scheduling an appointment with one of our lawyers. Clearing your name is our #1 priority and has been since 1997.