Burlington VT Lawyers

Vermont Criminal & DUI Defense

If you or your loved have been arrested, you may want to know the basics of Criminal Defense Law in Vermont. The Attorneys at Jarvis, McArthur & Williams, LLC provide answers to many of these common legal questions at our law firm daily. Please contact our law office directly to get questions answered about the specifics of your criminal matter. Every case is different. The best "answer" and most effective legal strategy depends on the facts and circumstances surrounding the specific arrest.

  1. What happens after someone is arrested?
  2. How does someone gets bailed out? Do I get the bail money returned when the case is over?
  3. Do I need a criminal defense lawyer if I have been falsely accused?
  4. The person that called the police does not want to prosecute, does that mean that no charges will be filed and that I will be released from custody?
  5. What happens at the first court hearing after charges are filed? What is an arraignment?
  6. What is a misdemeanor?
  7. What is a felony?
  8. In a DUI case, should I go and plead guilty without a lawyer?
  9. If I was arrested for a felony, does that mean I will face felony charges in court?
  10. What if I feel that the police violated my constitutional rights?
  11. I have been arrested, cited to appear in court or charged with a crime in Vermont, should I hire a criminal defense attorney?
  12. Do you present evidence of mitigation in a courtroom on behalf of clients?
  13. If the defendant is not a U.S. citizen, how will the immigration status be affected by an arrest?
  14. State v. Federal Court: What is the difference in criminal defense issues?
  15. Drug Addiction – How is this issue addressed within the court system, and within your criminal defense practice?
  16. How can I clear up an arrest warrant?
  17. Why should I hire Jarvis, McArthur & Williams?
  18. Will any lawyer do?
  19. What types of cases does Jarvis, McArthur & Williams handle?
  20. Can you guarantee a result?
  21. What will a lawyer do for me?

1. What happens after someone is arrested?

The police officers involved write reports about the crime, obtain witness statements, run a background check of the suspect, and do further investigation as needed before submitting their work to the prosecuting authority. A prosecutor reviews the documents to determine whether criminal charges - a misdemeanor or a felony - are warranted. The prosecutor has the option of rejecting the case for criminal prosecution, filing a misdemeanor, or filing a felony charge. If charges are filed, the next step in the criminal process is in court, at an arraignment.

2. How does someone gets bailed out? Do I get the bail money returned when the case is over?

Bail is financial assurance that a defendant will return to court after being released from custody. There are two ways to post bail. First, "cash" bail may be posted with the custodial agency to cover the entire amount of the bail. At the end of the case, if bail is exonerated, the defendant will receive a check for the entire amount posted (takes about 8-10 weeks). Second, a "bond" through a bail company may be posted. A defendant in the State of Vermont pays 10% of the entire amount to a bail company, which puts up the entire bail amount through a bond. If bail is exonerated, the 10% is not returned to the defendant because this is the fee he paid to the bail company to post bail on his behalf (like an insurance premium).

3. Do I need a criminal defense lawyer if I have been falsely accused?

Many cases are resolved with police just closing their files, because the evidence of a crime is simply insufficient. The court system does not get involved. However, as with many things in life, the world is not perfect and police officers do make mistakes. People have been falsely accused of rape, domestic violence, murder, and even drug possession because officers were either making negligent mistakes in their investigation, intentionally framing suspects, or intentionally lying about probable cause to justify an otherwise unlawful search of a home, car, or even of someone's person. Innocent people have served years in prison only to be released upon DNA testing. We have heard clients say "Hey, I am innocent! I figured I would go explain the events to the police and this would all go away!" Unfortunately they were wrong. At times police officers are inclined to disbelieve what a suspect tells them, and they may not have the time or motivation to fully investigate a client's story. What happens? The next thing the suspect knows is that he/she is arrested, placed into custody, and does not know how to clear his/her name. The attorneys at Jarvis, McArthur & Williams, LLC have had personal experience with representing clients who are simply innocent — these have proven to be some of the most difficult cases. In sum, someone who is completely innocent may be in the greatest need of representation. We have experience with client's who have been arrested and jailed pending a trial, who we have ultimately proven did not commit the offense at all. Cases have been dismissed after the Attorneys at Jarvis, McArthur & Williams have proven their clients have been falsely accused of crimes they did not commit.

If I did not do anything wrong, do I need to worry?

Michael Anthony Williams walked out of the Louisiana State Penitentiary having spent 24 years in prison before DNA testing proved that he was not the perpetrator of a brutal rape.

Brandon Moon, convicted by jury of three counts of aggravated sexual assault, spent 16 years in prison before DNA testing proved his innocence. He is the 154th DNA exoneration in the United States.

Ryan Matthews spent 5 years on Louisiana's death row until DNA testing exonerated him and revealed the identity of the actual perpetrator. Matthews became the 14th death row inmate in the United States proven innocent by DNA testing.

Yes, you do need to worry. Innocence is not a legal defense, it is a conclusion. Innocent people are arrested, convicted and incarcerated.

Our legal system is far from perfect. Persons who are innocent are sometimes convicted. It is not uncommon to hear of citizens being released after having been incarcerated for years. DNA technology has had a profound impact on the criminal justice system and has been use to prove that innocent persons have been convicted of crimes and wrongfully incarcerated. The fact that a person is innocent of the charges alleged against them should never lead to the conclusion that they do not need the very best legal defense they can secure.

Jarvis, McArthur & Williams, LLC is aware of the urgency to prepare a defense for our clients. Time is of the essence, and by waiting to secure legal representation, valuable advantages can be lost. If you or a loved one is charged with a crime, do not wait to secure legal representation in the hope that the Government will "drop the charges". The Government will make every effort to secure a conviction; you need a criminal defense attorney.

4. The person that called the police does not want to prosecute, does that mean that no charges will be filed and that I will be released from custody?

Not necessarily. There are many reasons why the alleged victim or reporting party may have a change of heart. It may be that the report of crime (violence, theft, or other violation) may have been false or inaccurate. It may also be that the person is scared to proceed with a prosecution. The police and the prosecutor's office are aware of all the reasons, and do not just "drop charges" especially in domestic violence cases. They attempt to re-interview the reporting party to understand the reason behind the change of heart.

5. What happens at the first court hearing after charges are filed? What is an arraignment?

Arraignment is the initial court proceeding where a defendant is advised of his charges, and usually enters a "Not Guilty" plea. If a defendant is out on bail, he/she stays out of custody unless the prosecutor demonstrates to the court that the defendant is a risk of flight or non-appearance. In other words, the prosecutor has to explain to the judge why the defendant needs to be rearrested when he has already voluntarily shown up to court after posting bail. The prosecutor clearly has the burden of proof here, and bail gets increased in cases where the defendant is on probation, there are new charges filed, or the source of bail (the monies used) are connected to illegal conduct.

6. What is a misdemeanor?

A misdemeanor is a criminal offense in the State of Vermont that is punishable with less than two years of jail time. Misdemeanor offenses are less severe than felonies. Examples of misdemeanors include cases of first and second offense DUI without death or serious bodily injury, leaving the scene of an accident, simple assault, negligent operation, and disorderly conduct.

7. What is a felony?

A basic felony is a criminal offense that is punishable with more than two years of jail. Felonies are serious criminal offenses and are considered more severe than misdemeanors. The prosecuting office typically seeks substantial custody time. Examples of felonies include Murder, Sexual Assault, Aggravated Domestic Assault, Grand Larceny, Aggravated Assault, third offense DUI or DUI Causing Death or Serious Injury, Child Sexual Assault, Arson, Embezzlement. Many other offenses are considered felony offenses. Please contact an Attorney at Jarvis, McArthur & Williams, LLC. These offenses carry substantial jail time under the laws of the State of Vermont.

8. In a DUI case, should I go and plead guilty without a lawyer?

The U.S. Constitution has been interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court as giving everyone to right to act "pro-se," or, in other words, to represent him/her self without an attorney. However, our courtroom experience has shown that individuals representing themselves cannot do nearly as good of a job defending themselves as an experienced criminal defense attorney can—even if the litigant is a civil attorney who does not have a criminal defense or prosecution background. As former State's Attorneys, we've dealt with many people representing themselves in court and have seen numerous errors committed by litigants representing themselves. Also, a DUI plea carries a mandatory license suspension. On a first time DUI, a license is suspended for either no less than 90 days or no less than 6 months if there is a refusal to submit to an evidentiary breath test. Many people believe that if they provide a sample of breath and the result is a .08% or greater than they have no opportunity to defend themselves. That is not always the case. An experienced criminal defense attorney can uncover possible constitutional or statutory violations that law enforcement may have committed while interacting with you and can also determine after a thorough review of the evidence whether factual problems exist for the prosecution making their case difficult to prove. A case is never as simple as whether or not an individual's alcohol concentration was a .08% or greater.

9. If I was arrested for a felony, does that mean I will face felony charges in court?

A prosecutor makes an independent decision on what charges to file, irrespective of what the arrest was for. The police may tell you that you are going to be charged with a certain level of offense. However, the exclusive right to charge a crime belongs to the prosecutor who may follow the officer's recommendation or deviate from the recommendation based on the facts and circumstances of the offense.

10. What if I feel that the police violated my constitutional rights?

If your constitutional rights were violated, the Attorneys at Jarvis, McArthur & Williams will aggressively seek to exclude evidence obtained as a result of police misconduct. At times, police misconduct occurs in searches that take place during ordinary traffic stops or in a suspect's home. Additionally, if law enforcement is too aggressive in trying to obtain an incriminating statement from a suspect, it may violate the suspect's Miranda rights. Litigation in the criminal court allows a defense lawyer to protect his client's rights by submitting motions to the judge seeking to exclude the recovered evidence or received statements from trial. Often a successful motion to suppress evidence cripples the prosecutor's case, causing the case to either be dismissed or substantially reduced in plea negotiations.

11. I have been arrested, cited to appear in court or charged with a crime in Vermont, should I hire a criminal defense attorney?

After you have been arrested, cited to appear in court or charged with a criminal offense, the best thing you can do is to consult with an experienced Vermont Criminal Defense Attorney. You want to speak with a criminal attorney who has successfully handled cases involving the same crime that you have been charged with. Additionally, you want to retain the services of a lawyer who is familiar with the courts and laws of the state where you were charged or arrested. Hiring a criminal defense attorney is the best decision you will make. By hiring an attorney, you ensure that you will receive the representation and resources you will need to successfully fight your criminal charges both in and out of court. Jarvis, McArthur & Williams, LLC will protect your best interests and place every effort into your successful defense.

12. Do you present evidence of mitigation in a courtroom on behalf of clients?

The criminal court system in Vermont deals with thousands of cases. How do criminal defense lawyers humanize a client to busy criminal courts? While this is not the easiest task to accomplish, the Attorneys at Jarvis, McArthur & Williams work very hard to humanize all of our clients to mitigate a possible sentence. Persuading Vermont prosecutors, probation officers and judges to recognize that a client's life cannot be defined based solely on the conduct that brought him/her into court takes patience and tenacity. Our lawyers work to explain that few persons are accurately defined by the worst thing they ever did. Unfortunately, unless we intervene to demonstrate the contrary, the default of the justice system is to assume that this crime resonates to our client's behavior in daily life.

For our criminal defense clients, the offense conduct is often negative (presuming the prosecutors can prove it), but the entire picture of the defendant's life may be far more positive and inspirational. Showing a client's entire background to the court comes with an in-depth investigation, and usually proves to be a major benefit to the outcome of the case. Character letters from employers, family members, social organizations (church, temple, AYSO, wherever client participates) assist our clients on a daily basis. This is one substantial factor in obtaining probation for clients instead of prison. Often presenting clients' entire backgrounds have resulted in charges being filed as misdemeanors rather than felonies, or in criminal charges not being filed at all.

13. If the defendant is not a U.S. citizen, how will the immigration status be affected by an arrest?

Criminal convictions may cause direct and grave consequences to someone's immigration status, often leading to deportation proceedings. The INS guidelines are often very complex and the Attorneys at Jarvis, McArthur & Williams frequently confer with immigration lawyers to properly advise clients. Before going to court, our attorneys discuss with clients their immigration status. Often our attorneys seek charges that are not considered by the INS as moral turpitude offenses (which are subject to deportation); this is done in an effort to protect our client's immigration consequences.

14. State v. Federal Court: What is the difference in criminal defense issues?

Federal court cases are typically investigated by federal agencies, including the FBI, DEA, Customs, Treasury, and other federal agencies. Sometimes state and local police agencies work with federal prosecutors if the offenses involve major quantity of drugs, weapons or other contraband. The federal government has more resources to prosecute cases, including special units to prosecute drugs, fraud, and violent crimes. While the state and local government also has special units, they have fewer prosecutors with larger case loads. Also, local law enforcement does not have nearly as many resources to complete investigations with as much thoroughness as federal law enforcement. For the most part, it is definitely in a criminal defendant's interest to be prosecuted in state, rather than federal court. The state of Vermont's sentencing system has more flexibility in terms of alternative sentencing options than sentences handed down in Federal Court.

15. Drug Addiction – How is this issue addressed within the court system, and within your criminal defense practice?

The obvious and sad reality is that addiction often leads to criminal behavior including theft, drug sales, DUI, and other more serious criminal violations. There are numerous drug programs in Vermont, in-patient and out-patient, available to treat drug and alcohol addiction. Often we have used these programs as an alternative to jail. While keeping clients out of jail is the firm's main objective, we are also concerned about recidivism. We want to prevent clients from relapsing and being rearrested. Accordingly, we counsel clients to take their rehabilitation seriously. We encourage them to commit to change with a sponsor or the 12-step lifestyle, and also encourage seeing a therapist on a regular basis.

16. How can I clear up an arrest warrant?

Clearing up an arrest warrant can be done one way: appearing in front of the court that issued the warrant. As long as the warrant is in the system, the person can be arrested for it in any state, in any contact with the police or government agency, and even coming into the United States at the airport. Immediate action to clear up the warrant is the best way to approach this legal problem. Voluntarily coming into the court may often prevent later jail time if the person is actually arrested on the warrant.

17. Why should I hire Jarvis, McArthur & Williams?

At Jarvis, McArthur & Williams, our legal team is comprised of aggressive defense attorneys that are former prosecutors. We are well-versed in all criminal law and defense matters, and very experienced working within the Vermont criminal justice system. Our criminal defense attorneys are fully prepared to undertake our clients' cases. When we work with our clients, we do everything possible to make sure that they receive the very best outcome. We aggressively and effectively represent our clients in both the State Courts of Vermont and the United States District Court for the District of Vermont.

18. Will any lawyer do?

Not all lawyers practice criminal law...

Not all criminal lawyers practice in both State and Federal Courts...

Not all criminal lawyers are part of a team...

No, you need a lawyer who has skill in defending persons charged with the type of crimes alleged against you, and who has experience in appearing in the court in which you will be appearing. If you are charged with a crime, you want a lawyer who has experience and training in handling the type of criminal case charged against you. The area of criminal law is ever changing with new court rulings and statutes affecting the rights of citizens. You should seek a lawyer who is experienced in the court where you will be appearing. Many very good State criminal defense attorneys have never handled a Federal criminal case. Many good civil attorneys have never represented a person charged with a crime. The procedures and rules of evidence in Federal and State courts differ, and lawyers practicing in one court may not be familiar with the practice of law in another court. Federal Criminal Laws and State Criminal Laws are not the same. You need a lawyer who can bring experience to your defense after having spent hundreds of hours handling your type of case. Jarvis, McArthur & Williams, LLC is a Burlington, Vermont based criminal defense law firm practicing in both State and Federal courts. Jarvis, McArthur & Williams, LLC will bring to your defense the resources needed to protect your rights.

19. What types of cases does Jarvis, McArthur & Williams handle?

The Attorneys at Jarvis, McArthur & Williams handle all Federal and State misdemeanor and felony cases involving: DUI, Sex Crimes, White Collar Crimes, Drug Crimes, Violent Crimes, Domestic Violence, Juvenile Crimes, Theft Crimes, property crimes, internet crimes, hit & run, and probation violation. Additionally, we are able to help clients with their warrant, DMV suspension, and expungement matters.

20. Can you guarantee a result?

Simply stated,... "no way, no how, not now, not ever..."

No, a lawyer can not ethically guarantee a result.

No attorney can ethically guarantee a result. The guarantee of a result implies that your fee is refundable if your lawyer is unsuccessful. Such a fee would then be contingent on the outcome of the case. The ethical rules governing the behavior of lawyers forbid a lawyer from entering into an arrangement for a contingent fee in a criminal case.

If a lawyer guarantees a result, ask them to put it in writing. If they will not reduce it to writing, they lied to you.

You need an attorney that will be straight with you, one who will give you the bad news as well as the good. You need a lawyer who will fight for you and keep you informed of the law and the likely outcome of your case. Your lawyer works for you.

Jarvis, McArthur & Williams, LLC is dedicated to the legal profession and to providing our clients the very best criminal defense possible. We will provide you the information and advice to allow you the opportunity to make the best choices in your case.

21. What will a lawyer do for me?

Work, Work, Work...

Most lawyers, whether experienced or not, will work hard for their clients. It is just the way we are made. After a minimum four years of college and three years of law school, a lawyer seldom knows how to relax. However, hard work may not be enough. You need a lawyer with the experience to know where to spend resources and time. An inexperienced lawyer can spend hours pursuing a defense that is destined to fail. Work ethic and experience allows a lawyer to focus efforts on those areas of a case that will do a client the most good. Jarvis, McArthur & Williams, LLC is dedicated to providing the best defense for you and your loved ones. Jarvis, McArthur & Williams, LLC has years of experience defending hundreds of clients charged with crimes in both the Federal and State Courts.

Can I represent myself?

Yes but, that would be a Bad...
Very Bad...
Very Very Bad Mistake!

"Why would you want to?"

You have a Constitutional Right to represent yourself. However, given that the prosecuting attorney is a lawyer; and that a lawyer undergoes years of education, practice, and continuing legal education, the average citizens are unable to adequately represent themselves in a criminal case. Further, consider that most attorneys would never represent themselves in their own case. The best response to the question is, "why would you want to?"

We have all heard the saying, "a person who represents himself has a fool for a client." Well, it's true.

If you are charged with a crime...

If you are being questioned by the police...

If you are under criminal investigation...

You need a lawyer!

When a citizen is charged with a crime, the State or Federal Government is seeking to take away that citizen's liberty. If you are convicted of a Federal or State crime you could be fined and/or incarcerated. You could permanently lose certain rights. A criminal conviction will remain on your record for the rest of your life and may mean you are disqualified from certain types of employment or benefits in the future. Prior convictions may be used to increase the sentence for subsequent convictions. Certain minor crimes (misdemeanors) may become felonies for repeat offenses.

If you are charged with a crime or are being questioned by the police or other law enforcement and have a question about whether you need a lawyer, contact Jarvis, McArthur & Williams, LLC for a free consultation. Your right to counsel is so important that, if Jarvis, McArthur & Williams can not help you, we will refer you to other criminal defense resources.

 

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