How We Obtain Positive Results
I'll Listen to You and Your Witnesses to Learn Your Side of the Story
I'll Conduct Our Own Investigation and Collect and Review All Favorable Evidence
I'll Depose Material Witnesses to Expose Their Bias and Motives and Elicit Favorable Testimony
I'll Conduct Legal Research to Identify Laws and Legal Opinions That Support Your Defense
I'll Keep You Informed of All Developments as Your Case Progresses Through the System
I'll Speak to the Prosecution and Urge Them to Dismiss the Case, Reduce the Charges or Agree to a Reduced Sentence
I'll Prepare Your Case for Presentation to the Judge and Jury Assuring That All Resources Have Been Exhausted
I'll Advocate for You and Zealously Fight for Your Rights at All Hearings, Motions and Trial
Navigating You Through the Maze of the Criminal Justice System
Being accused of a crime is an unfamiliar situation for most people. If you have been accused, you are likely to have many questions. Erick Cruz will strive to answer all of your questions with sincerity and clarity. We will provide you with all the information available so that together, we can make an informed decision that is in your best interest. The criminal justice system is complicated and involves many different stages, each with a different set of rules. The following provides a brief explanation of the different stages in a criminal case.
Accusation / Investigation
A criminal investigation can begin with a simple accusation. Oftentimes, the police are only receiving information from the party accusing you and no one is representing your interests. Therefore, it is critical to obtain representation early on in the process so that we can advocate your position and present evidence favorable to your defense. The odds of overcoming a criminal investigation are greatest when the problem is addressed at inception where it is usually easier to convince the government not to file charges.
The police can make an arrest when probable cause exists to believe that a person has committed a crime. The probable cause standard is very low and can be met by a simple accusation without corroboration. At this stage it is critical that you safeguard your rights to remain silent and refuse to provide consent to any searches. Following the arrest, the individual will be taken to jail and booked on criminal charges.
At the jail, the booking process begins and your fingerprints and photograph will be taken. At this time, bond is usually set according to a bond schedule and the bond amount increases according to the severity of the crime charged. Depending on the alleged crime, you may also be required to prove that the funds used to pay the bond are not fruits of the crime. If the person does not bond out, he will appear before a first appearance judge where he will be informed of the charges against him and the judge will determine if probable cause exists to continue to detain the person. At this hearing, the first appearance judge can also increase or decrease the amount of the bond, place travel restrictions, issue stay away orders or place any condition that will guarantee the person’s appearance and ensure the safety of the community.
After your arrest, the prosecutors will review the case and conduct their investigation. Before the prosecutors file a case, they must have a good faith basis that they can prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a much higher standard that probable cause. Therefore, the prosecutors will speak to the investigating officer, victim, witnesses and review any forensic reports. At this stage, we have the opportunity to speak to the prosecutors and present them with evidence favorable to your case. Many times, it is easier to convince the prosecutors not to file charges than it is to convince them to later drop charges.
This is the first formal hearing concerning your case. At this stage, the prosecutors announce what, if any, charges they are filing. We then plead not guilty, demand discovery and a trial by jury. At this point, your case will be set for trial.
After formal charges have been filed, the prosecutors must provide to us a witness list, all police reports, statements made by witnesses, photographs, recordings, forensic reports and any evidence related to your case.
In felony cases, we have the right to take a recorded sworn statement from the witnesses against you. During a deposition, we can ask questions designed to lead to exculpatory evidence, other witnesses, to expose the bias and motivations of your accusers and to confront the witnesses with inconsistent statements.
After reviewing the discovery provided by the prosecutors and taking the witness’ depositions, we can file motions designed to suppress evidence or statements. These motions are usually based on violations of your rights to be free from illegal searches and seizures. The motions are varied and complex. Many times, a small issue or something you believe to be inconsequential can be the key to winning a motion to suppress. If we are successful in winning a motion to suppress, this may lead to the dismissal of the case against you.
Criminal Punishment Code
The sentence sought by prosecutors is typically based on criminal sentencing guidelines. Simply explained, every felony crime is scored according to its severity. The guidelines assign a different numerical value with larger numbers representing more serious crimes. The guidelines also take into account any prior criminal history, injury to the victim and special circumstances. The final score is not determinative of the sentence. The sentence may be reduced based on mitigating factors.
If we are unable to persuade the prosecutors to drop charges against you or have the evidence suppressed, then our next best alternative may be to engage in plea negotiations and reach a plea agreement. Through negotiations we will try to convince prosecutors to reduce charges or to agree to a reduced sentence based on weaknesses in the case or based on your particular circumstances.
If the government does not agree to dismiss the charges against you or we cannot agree on a plea deal, then the other alternative is to go to trial. At this point, a jury is chosen to listen to the evidence and decide if the prosecutors have proven the case beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecutors must call your accusers to testify against you. We will also have the opportunity to cross examine the witnesses and expose any bias or motivations, prior inconsistent statements and point out deficiencies in their testimony. We can also call witnesses to testify on your behalf and you will also have the opportunity to testify and explain your side. At the conclusion of the testimony portion of the trial, we can make closing arguments to summarize our case and our position and to request that the jury find you not guilty.
Before you are sentenced, you have the right to have a pre-sentence investigation conducted by the department of corrections. During this investigation, the officer will interview you and your family members, witnesses, and other people involved in your case in order to ascertain everyone’s position for sentencing. Based on these interviews and investigation into the person’s background, the officer will make a sentencing recommendation to the judge.
If we do not reach a plea agreement with the prosecutors, then the judge will decide the sentence to impose. The judge can impose a sentence ranging from a fine and probation to prison. The judge will consider the sentencing guidelines, the circumstances of the case, the criminal history of the person, and the pre-sentence investigation before imposing a sentence.
First time offenders may choose to avail themselves of pre-trial intervention programs. These programs are usually reserved for first time offenders who are accused of committing a nonviolent crime. If you enter into one of these programs, you may be required to complete community service hours, pay a fine, and complete a behavioral course. The benefit to this program is that after completing the conditions, the case will result in a dismissal and no conviction will remain in your record.
A sentence of probation will be set for a definite amount of time. You may be required to pay a fine, perform community service hours, and not commit a new law violation. Unlike a pre-trial intervention program, however, you will plead guilty or no contest to the charge and after completing the term of probation, the case may remain part of your criminal record. It is critical that you comply with all of the conditions made part of your probation. If you fail to comply with the conditions or you are arrested for a new case, you will be in violation of your probation and can be subject to having your term of probation revoked and possibly sent to prison.
Jail / Prison
Another sentencing option available to judges is to impose a period of incarceration. Jail is the term used to describe a sentence of a year or less in the local county jail. Prison is used to describe confinement in any prison within the state correctional facilities for a term over a year.
Seal / Expunge
Depending on your criminal history and how your case is resolved you may be eligible to restrict public access to your case. You are eligible to have your case expunged if the charges against you are dropped and you have not previously been convicted of any crime. You may be eligible to have your case sealed if you pled guilty or no contest and adjudication was withheld and you have not previously been convicted of any crime. You can only seal or expunge one case in your lifetime.