A competent criminal defense lawyer must have a clear understanding of the United States Constitution. Specifically, the Fourth Amendment protects against unlawful searches and seizures, while the Fifth and Sixth Amendments govern the right to remain silent so one does not become a witness against himself. All of the Amendments to the United States Constitution are guaranteed to the criminal accused against the states via the Fourteenth Amendment. Thus, a criminal defense lawyer must understand each of these rights. Initial work on any criminal case involves review of the charges and the claimed facts, and analysis of constitutional violations, the prima facie burden of the prosecution, defenses, and affirmative defenses; as well as potential sentence and sentencing issues.
Early stages of a criminal case may involve a grand jury or preliminary hearing to determine if there exists probable cause for the case to continue. A violation of the Fourth or Fifth Amendment, or other illegally obtained evidence could result in evidence being inadmissible at trial. Accordingly, Tom Abbate often spends a considerable amount of time reviewing all documentation to determine if the case can be won on constitutional grounds due to illegal conduct by the government.
Tom Abbate defends people with misdemeanor or felony charges. A misdemeanor generally refers to criminal activity that is punishable by one year or less in the local jail. A felony typically refers to criminal activity that is punishable by more than one year in the prison system. Many states have laws which refers to criminal activity that is charged as a felony, but has a possibility of being reduced to a misdemeanor.
Misdemeanor and felony crimes, as well as the penalties they pose, can vary widely depending on a number of circumstances. There are also a few important things to note:
- Wobblers – Some crimes are referred to as wobblers, meaning that prosecutors may have the discretion to charge an individual with a crime as either a misdemeanor or a felony. In these cases, reducing a felony charge to a misdemeanor can be quite a positive resolution.
- Aggravating Factors – In both misdemeanor and felony cases, certain aggravating factors can elevate the penalties a person faces, and in some cases elevate a misdemeanor to a felony. These aggravating factors can include prior convictions and criminal history, crimes committed while on probation, crimes committed against certain individuals (law enforcement, children, vulnerable adults), and others.
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