As you know, the United States Constitution guarantees everybody a fair trial, and assumes all accused persons innocent until proven guilty. If you have been arrested and are facing criminal charges, then you need an experienced Vermont criminal defense lawyer. Some defendants may also apply and qualify for representation from a Public Defender.
You have the following rights while represented by this office or any other attorney:
Do not talk to anyone about your case without first discussing the matter with your attorney. You may discuss anything concerning your case with your attorney because these matters are confidential. But this confidential privilege extends only to discussions between you and your attorney. Anything you tell your family, friends, or others, such as cellmates, is not confidential. A judge can require those people to testify about what you have said, whether they want to testify or not.
Your attorney cannot discuss any part of your case with your family or friends, unless you give your permission.
After arrest, the officer is required to take you before the nearest available judge without unnecessary delay. If you are issued a citation to appear in state court, you will be released on conditions until your initial appearance at a later date. This hearing is called your arraignment and is held in open court. The judge will inform you of the charges against you and of your right to request the appointment of an attorney if you qualify. This is a public hearing and anyone can be present. If you are unable to attend your arraignment, contact your attorney immediately.
You will not be required to plead guilty or not guilty at this point, nor will you be required to answer questions about the charges against you. In state court, you have 24 hours to wait before entering a plea, but you may waive this right and enter a not guilty plea at your arraignment. At your initial appearance, the judge will either release you on bond or the government will move to have you detained. In state cases, the judge will either release you on your personal recognizance, release you on conditions of release that may include a bond, or the state will move to have you detained without bail.
All misdemeanor cases are brought back to court approximately 6 weeks after arraignment for a Pretrial Conference to advise the court of the case’s status. If a case does not settle then it is set for jury selection at a later date. Felony cases are scheduled individually for a status conference to advise the court of the progress of the case.
After the arraignment, the State’s Attorney and the defense attorney may enter into a plea agreement in which the defendant agrees to plead guilty to the original or a reduced charge. You have the right to be informed of the plea agreement, but you do not have the right to be present at any plea negotiation sessions. You may have an opportunity to state your position to the court. Plea agreements can happen at any time in the court process. If an agreement is not reached, the case is set for jury selection and trial.
At a jury draw, attorneys question a panel of county citizens to arrive at a 12 person jury, usually with two alternates. The questioning process is designed to select fair and impartial jurors who will decide the case based solely on the evidence presented to them. The victim in a case is usually not present for jury selection.
The United States Constitution guarantees your right to a trial by jury. In making the decision to plead guilty or to take your case to trial, your attorney will assist you; however, the final decision is yours.
Your case will be tried before a jury of twelve people unless you waive this right. Unless the court dismisses the charges against you at the end of the state’s presentation, your attorney will have the opportunity to present evidence and witnesses, if any, that he/she feels will best help you. The decision as to which witnesses to call will be made by your attorney, after consultation with you.
You must decide yourself whether or not you will testify. Your attorney will give you advice on this, including the risks involved, but again, the final decision is yours.
After all the evidence has been presented, each side gives a closing argument. The judge will then read instructions to the jury for it to use in reaching its verdict. The jury will deliberate until it reaches a unanimous verdict. If the jury cannot agree on a unanimous verdict, then a mistrial is declared.
If you have any questions or concerns about your rights or your representation in general, you should contact your attorney to resolve your questions.