Norton Hare, L.L.C has a reputation for aggressive and zealous defense of adults and juveniles accused of crimes in both Kansas and Missouri. Our firm handles everything from speeding and traffic tickets to first-degree murder cases in municipal, district and federal courts.
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Our office is in Corporate Woods in Overland Park, but we are widely known not just as Johnson County, Kansas criminal defense lawyers, but as a law firm that provides the most aggressive criminal defense services available in the city and county courts of Johnson, Wyandotte, Miami, Douglas, Leavenworth, Franklin and Linn Counties in Kansas, and Jackson, Clay, Platte and Cass Counties in Missouri. We have also practiced in many other jurisdictions in both states. From our convenient location near Interstate 435, we can be at the courthouses of Kansas or Missouri within minutes.
Our attorneys routinely handle homicide and sex crimes cases, and have developed a reputation for successfully litigating those matters. Most criminal cases call for extensive and thorough pretrial discovery and motions practice and our firm is skilled and experienced at both. Bench and jury trials require intensive preparation and scrupulous attention to the details of the facts and the law of the case. Our attorneys have been there before.
We are a small firm that is able to give each case personal attention. Although each client will have one attorney handling his or her case, each case is staffed with all of the lawyers in the firm on a regular basis so our clients get the benefit of our entire legal team working on his or her case. This method allows for a thorough evaluation of the case and multiple approaches to defending it. Our clients benefit from the talents and experiences of three separate attorneys all working on and thinking about their matters.
Every criminal case is different. How it is handled will depend greatly on the facts, the nature of the offense, and the needs and desires of the client. What follows is a general overview of the typical criminal case.
Law enforcement officials may investigate an alleged crime immediately after it happens or months later. Usually, investigation will consist of interviews with witnesses and alleged victims and possibly an interview with the suspect. Persons suspected of crimes are not required to talk about those matters, or any others, with law enforcement. Every citizen of the United States has the right to remain silent and/or to have an attorney present during questioning. As officers are usually trying to make a case against the suspect they are interviewing, suspects can rarely say anything to help themselves. Many criminal defense attorneys will recommend strongly against speaking to any agent of the government prior to obtaining the advice of counsel. Investigation may also consist of forensic testing for fingerprints, hair or fiber evidence, DNA testing or handwriting analyses. Every drug case will almost certainly require laboratory analysis to determine whether illegal drugs are present in seized evidence. A lab fee of $400.00 is tacked on to those drug cases and assessed to the defendant if he or she gets convicted.
Often, an investigation includes a search of a person or his property. The law surrounding search and seizure in America is too complex to discuss here in detail. Searches require a warrant issued by a detached and neutral magistrate after application by law enforcement officers who are able to demonstrate that there is probable cause to believe the fruits or instrumentalities of a crime will be found in the place to be searched. However, there are several notable exceptions to the requirement of a warrant:
- Cars are movable so they may be searched when an officer has probable cause that there is contraband or evidence of a crime inside
- An individual and his surroundings may be searched when arrested so that officers can determine that there are no weapons or contraband within the person’s reach
- When the evidence is likely to be destroyed or to dissipate absent an immediate search officers may search
- When an individual gives the officer consent to do a search he waives his constitutional rights. Many criminal defense attorneys will strongly recommend against ever consenting to a search.
If a law enforcement officer sees a crime committed in his presence, he may immediately arrest the person he believes is responsible. Otherwise, the officers will conduct an investigation to try to develop probable cause. Probable cause is that quantum of evidence that would lead a reasonable person to believe that a suspect has committed a crime. If the officers develop probable cause to believe that a suspect committed a crime, they may make an arrest. Sometimes, officers will conduct an investigation and simply turn their information over to the prosecuting authority in the jurisdiction. The prosecutor may then file a case and ask a judge to issue an arrest warrant which allows them to arrest a person at any place he or she might be found. Once arrested, the suspect is brought before a judge to be arraigned.
Arraignment and Bond
If a bond has been set for the charge, a suspect may either post cash sufficient to cover the bond or have a bondsman post the bond for them. A bondsman will usually charge between 10% and 20% of the bond for his services. If you post your own cash bond you get the money back once the case is resolved. If you pay a bondsman he keeps your money. When you bond out you will be given a court date. If you can’t bond out, you will see the judge within a day or two.
When a person is brought before a judge and informed of the charge against them they are “arraigned”. In misdemeanor cases, the defendant may be asked to enter a plea of not guilty or guilty. If a person is still in custody, he may ask the judge to lower the bond amount so that he can post it and be released. As the purpose of bond is to insure that a defendant will return to court, a judge will usually consider whether the defendant has contacts with the community, is likely to flee, poses a danger to himself or others, and whether he has failed to appear in the past.
If a person who is on bond fails to appear for court, his bond may be forfeited and a new warrant for his arrest will be issued.
A person charged with a crime may represent himself, but usually will not. An attorney may be retained by the defendant or appointed by the court if a defendant is indigent. An attorney’s first duty is usually to obtain discovery. Discovery is all of the information that the prosecutor and police have that is relevant to the case. Police reports should be ordered immediately. An attorney will also want to request videotapes, audio tapes of 911 calls, dispatch calls and interviews, photographs, diagrams, laboratory reports regarding breath, blood, DNA and forensic evidence, logbooks, field notes and witness statements, among other discoverable items. Prosecutors must generally provide this information. If they refuse, an attorney can file a motion to compel their production. A defense attorney may also want to conduct his own investigation in which he visits a crime scene, interviews witnesses, or has his own tests performed. Sometimes, defendants will hire experts to review the evidence and give an opinion.
Once discovery has been completed, an attorney and defendant can discuss the evidence and assess the case.
In some state courts, a defendant charged with a felony is entitled to a preliminary hearing. At such a hearing, the prosecution must put on evidence sufficient to demonstrate that there is probable cause that a felony has been committed and that the defendant is the person who committed the crime. This is an opportunity for the defense to evaluate the government’s witnesses and to obtain more information about the case. If probable cause is found, the defendant is bound over for trial and asked to enter a plea of not guilty or guilty.
Sometimes after reviewing the evidence obtained through the discovery process, defense counsel will wish to file motions to limit the introduction of evidence at a trial or to have a case dismissed altogether. Many times these motions will be made in an effort to suppress evidence obtained through a potentially illegal search or seizure. If the evidence is thrown out, the case may be dismissed. Counsel may file motions to prevent the introduction of evidence which may be irrelevant or so prejudicial as to prevent a fair trial.
All trials carry the risk of conviction. Thus, defense counsel and his client may determine after a review of the evidence that a negotiated settlement of the case should be considered. Sometimes, a prosecutor will agree to reduce the charges or to make a favorable recommendation regarding sentencing. If an offer is made that provides enough incentive for the defendant to waive his right to a trial, a plea bargain may be entered into between the parties to resolve the case.
Before a judge can accept a plea of guilty from a criminal defendant he or she must determine that the plea is freely and voluntarily given and that the person understands the rights he or she is waiving. Thus, a judge will usually inquire as to whether the person understands that he is waiving a trial by pleading, waiving the right to confront and cross-examine witnesses, waiving the presumption of innocence, and waiving the right to most appeals. He will also want to know whether any threats or promises other than the plea bargain have been made in order to get the defendant to plead guilty. If a judge is satisfied that the plea is voluntary and knowing, and that there are facts to support the plea, he will accept it. He will then sentence the defendant. A judge is never a party to the negotiations and is not bound by them. Most times, a judge will consider the negotiations and defer to them. However, a judge may sentence a person who pleads guilty to any sentence within the minimum and maximum ranges allowed by law.
In Kansas DUI cases, the prosecutor and defense attorney are prohibited from entering into a plea bargain that would avoid the mandatory minimum sentence required by the law. Any other case can be plea bargained.
All persons accused of crimes other than traffic violations are entitled to a trial by a jury. However, cases in municipal court may first be tried to a municipal court judge and then appealed to district court where a jury may be requested. In many misdemeanor and traffic cases, a defendant’s case may be tried to judge only for his decision as to guilt or innocence. Nearly all felonies will be tried to a jury. If a jury is requested, a panel will be selected and then pared down by the attorneys and judge to only those who are ostensibly fair and impartial. The jury will then hear the evidence and decide guilt or innocence.
The prosecution has the burden of presenting evidence and proving beyond a reasonable doubt that person is guilty of the crime with which they are charged. A defense attorney may cross-examine the government’s witnesses to advance his client’s defense. After the prosecution has presented all of its evidence, the defendant is given an opportunity to present any evidence he wishes.
A defendant is never required to testify at his or her own trial. Whether to do so is a decision for the defendant to make with the help of his or her attorney. If the defendant does testify, the prosecutor may cross-examine him. The defendant may put on other evidence in his or her defense, but is not required to.
If a jury finds that the government has not proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt, it should return a verdict of not guilty. If a jury cannot decide, a hung jury may be declared and the case retried. If the jury finds the defendant guilty, he or she is sentenced by the judge.
At sentencing, both the prosecution and defense may make arguments and/or put on evidence concerning the appropriate sentence for the defendant. The defendant may move for probation to avoid serving any time in jail. In Kansas, felony sentences are mostly predetermined by the Kansas Sentencing Guidelines and judges must sentence a defendant within those guidelines. The sentence on a crime governed by the Sentencing Guidelines will be determined by the severity level of the crime and the criminal history of the defendant. Depending on a defendant’s criminal history, probation may be automatically granted.
If placed on probation, a defendant must report to a probation officer and comply with all of his or her requirements. People on probation usually must refrain from drinking alcohol, obtain substance abuse and mental health evaluations and comply with the terms thereof, obey all laws, and sometimes must perform community service and pay fines. If a person violates one of the conditions of probation, a jail sentence may be imposed.
If a person has a trial and is found guilty, he or she may appeal. Usually, one appeals some decision of the trial court made during the course of litigation. If the trial court made a mistake, the conviction may be overturned. If the appellate court finds that no mistakes were made, the conviction will stand and the original sentence carried out.