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118 Capitol Street, Suite 400, Charleston, West Virginia 25301

Frequently Asked Questions on Criminal Law

The Giatras Law Firm PLLC strives to keep clients well informed about criminal defense options. Please review our frequently asked questions on criminal law topics and feel free to contact us for additional information.

Criminal Law Topics

Criminal Law FAQs

What’s the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor?

A misdemeanor offense is a crime that is punished by a maximum of one year in the county jail. Felonies are more serious crimes, which are punishable by more than one year in the state prison system.

Behaviors punishable only by fine, such as traffic tickets, are usually not considered crimes at all, but are infractions.

What is the “presumption of innocence”?

All people accused of a crime are legally presumed to be innocent until they are proven guilty, either via a trial or as a result of pleading guilty. This presumption means not only that the prosecutor must convince the jury of the defendant’s guilt, but also that the defendant need not say or do anything in his own defense. The presumption of innocence, coupled with the fact that the prosecutor must prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, makes it difficult, but unfortunately not impossible, for the government to put innocent people behind bars.

If I’m charged with a crime, will I have a trial by a jury?

The U.S. Constitution gives a person accused of a crime punishable by a sentence longer than six months the right to be tried by a jury.

If I am innocent, can I testify in my own defense?

The 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives every criminal defendant the right not to testify, and jurors will be told that they cannot assume anything negative if the defendant decides to keep quiet.

A defendant may want to remain silent at trial if he has previously been convicted of a crime because a prosecutor may be able to bring out this information on cross-examination. Jurors also may harshly judge a defendant with a poor demeanor or may not believe one who is being truthful.

Should I contact an attorney if I’m under investigation but have not been charged?

Absolutely. Representation at an early stage in a case can increase the odds of no charges or reduced charges being filed. An attorney also can protect your rights during the investigation.

Do I need a lawyer at my arraignment?

The arraignment is where you first appear before a judge and enter a plea of guilty or not guilty to the offense charged. If you are represented by counsel, your attorney may attend your arraignment for you. If you are not represented by counsel, you must personally attend your arraignment. As in all serious legal matters, being represented by counsel assists with protecting your rights.

What types of criminal cases do you handle?

We handle all types of felonies and misdemeanors.

Why should I choose your firm to represent me in a criminal case?

When you contact our firm regarding defense of criminal charges, our attorneys, not legal assistants, will discuss all aspects of your case with you, such as the potential defenses and sentences for the offense charged. There is no charge or obligation for you to talk to us, either by telephone or in person at our office. We have significant criminal defense experience and work to protect our clients’ rights. As defense lawyers, we conduct a thorough investigation, present an honest assessment of your case, and provide unparalleled representation.

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Dealing with your personal injury or criminal defense matter may seem overwhelming. Trust The Giatras Law Firm PLLC in Charleston, West Virginia to handle it and provide you peace of mind. We offer a no-risk, free consultation, and evening and weekend appointments. We make home and hospital visits when necessary. Contact us. We can help.

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