Barry Helfand and David Martella have decades of experience representing individuals and corporations charged with the most serious offenses in State and Federal Courts. Felony prosecutions can result in long prison sentences, the inability to support loved ones, disqualification from many forms of employment, and embarrassing exposure on law enforcement websites. Many innocent people are wrongfully charged with felony offenses. Then, there are many people who may have committed some minor crime, but are over-charged with serious felony offenses. And we see many clients who are charged only because the police obtained evidence by violating our client’s constitutional rights.
On a rare occasion, a client is able to get to us before actually being a charged with a felony. Maybe they have been notified by the police or an employer that he or she is the target of an investigation. Getting us involved prior to being charged can give the client a tremendous advantage to secure a result without any charges ever being filed. Many times, we can negotiate a resolution with the police or the alleged victim to avoid charges being forwarded to the prosecutor’s office.
If a suspect is arrested for felony charges, it is quite possible a magistrate or commissioner is not going to release the defendant on an affordable bond. So, the first thing we are usually doing is fighting to secure our client’s immediate release. There are many options available beside paying a bond to the court or paying a bondsman. Friends and family are often understandably desperate to get their loved-one out; so they often make the mistake of not consulting an attorney before wasting thousands of dollars paying bonds to the court or a bond service.
After arrest, Maryland State felony charges are usually brought in the District Court in a preliminary charging document. These preliminary charges keep the case alive while a prosecutor gets assigned to the case and investigates the matter to determine if formal felony charges should be brought by way of a grand jury indictment. These several weeks can be extremely important to a successful resolution for the client. Important information about the case can be collected before it is lost forever. Negotiations can be conducted to have the case proceed with misdemeanors, rather than felonies. Or a complete resolution of the case can be reached prior to indictment. In some counties, negotiation becomes much more difficult after the case is indicted. So, we like to get into a felony case as soon as possible before certain opportunities are lost.
Of course, many cases do get indicted and have a prosecutor on the other end seeking a lengthy prison sentence, followed by probation, and a permanent felony record. An effective defense attorney will not only know what the rules of court are, but also will fight to determine what the rules of engagement will be. We prefer to fight for our clients from the very beginning of a case to exclude certain witnesses and evidence, whenever possible. We use available procedures to influence what offenses can and cannot be prosecuted. And we fight to make sure our client’s version of the events is heard by the judge or jury.
The biggest mistake we see inexperienced attorneys make is failing to appreciate the reality that the police, the prosecutors, and the judges all have different personalities and philosophies. A favorable fact for a defendant may be important to some prosecutors, but meaningless to others. A particular legal argument may cause a judge to view the client in a more favorable light, while another judge may respond to the same argument with a great deal of hostility. It is always important for a client’s lawyer to know something about the people involved and make decisions that are always mindful of the ultimate goals of the client.
When a client is exonerated, the work may not be over. Although the government has many people ready and willing to bring charges against a citizen, it does not devote the same energy to wiping those charges clean from a person’s record. We can be of great assistance in getting cases expunged and removed from law enforcement and court records.
For those who been found guilty, the fight is not over once the verdict is announced. There is still a great deal of work to be done to minimize or eliminate the chances that a client will be incarcerated. Sentencing options do not have to be limited to prison, or no prison. Probation, fines, home detention, in-patient treatment, out-patient counseling, GPS monitoring are options that might be available to avoid a prison sentence. No one in the Court system offers you a menu of options prior to sentencing. You need an attorney who works in the criminal arena on a daily basis to know what is available, what will work, and what will not work.
Although we have attorneys licensed in Maryland, D.C. and the Federal Courts, we are sometimes called to partner with other attorneys defending cases in other states. If you need counsel for felony charges, or are interested in obtaining a second opinion about a pending case, please call us to arrange a consultation. Most office consultations are free.