Being charged with a criminal offense is very serious, including DWI arrests, but there are protections under the Constitutions of the United States and of New Mexico. Below are some basic guidelines and information on penalties for criminal charges in New Mexico courts. Every case is unique and the laws are complicated, so if you are currently charged or have reason to believe that you may be charged with a crime you should consult with an attorney who can help you understand what you are up against and assist you with your legal problems.
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Criminal Defense Practice Areas
The First Thing For You To Do
The most important thing for you to do is to get the assistance of an attorney as soon as possible. You do not have to wait to speak to an attorney until after you are arrested or questioned by law enforcement. In fact it is normally not a good idea to wait. Getting assistance from an attorney early on can have enormous benefits including preventing you from accidentally incriminating yourself and avoiding criminal charges all together.
Law Enforcement Investigation
When law enforcement is investigating a crime they will frequently try to talk to the person they believe may have committed the crime. They also frequently try to get the person to agree to let law enforcement do some kind of search. Of course, law enforcement doesn’t necessarily tell the person that they suspect him or her of a crime when they start asking questions.
If law enforcement wants to question you or asks to search your person or property, it is almost always a good idea to talk to an attorney before doing anything. Once you have agreed to talk or allow a search it may be difficult to undo any damage caused. However, in New Mexico, you do have a legal obligation to give law enforcement your name when that law enforcement has a reasonable suspicion to question you.
If you are arrested, you need to contact an attorney right away. The officers think that there is probable cause to believe you have committed a crime.
When you are arrested you still have the right not to speak to law enforcement, not to consent to a search of your property, and to speak to an attorney.
Bond and Release
Except in a very few serious cases, once you are arrested a bond amount will be set. That bond must be met in order for you to be released from jail. There are many different kinds of bonds. An attorney can file motions in your case to try to get you a more favorable bond.
In most cases, the court will set conditions of release. That means that while you are out of jail waiting for your case to be resolved, there are certain things you are required to do. Normally theses conditions are include things about not drinking alcohol, not having contact with alleged victims, and staying within the county where you are charged.
Grand Jury/Preliminary Hearing
In order to charge someone with a felony the prosecution must go to the grand jury, to a preliminary hearing, or get a valid waiver by the accused. You have many rights at these proceedings. This portion of the criminal process is important, and unfortunately is often overlooked. It is important to contact an attorney right away to get assistance in these hearings, especially because these proceedings often occur very shortly after arrest and time is needed to prepare.
Arraignment is where you appear before a court and are formally informed of the charges against you, the penalties you may face if convicted, and your rights. At that time the court also takes an initial plea from the accused. In almost all cases, you should plead not guilty at arraignment.
The accused also has the right to have a hearing on bond and release conditions at the time of arraignment.
One of the jobs of an attorney is to review all the evidence against the client to see what legal issues need to be raised by motion. An attorney may file motions to suppress, motions to exclude, and other motions that are designed to help with your case.
Trial and Possible Appeal
As someone accused of a crime, you have the right to have a trial. At the trial you are presumed innocent and the prosecution attempts to bring enough evidence of guilt to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused is the one who committed a crime.
You have the right to bring any relevant witnesses or evidence to the trial. You also have the right to have your attorney cross examine the witnesses against you. As the accused, you have the right to testify or choose not to testify at trial.
The trial is a serious matter and takes enormous amounts of preparation and knowledge.
If the accused is found guilty of even one charge at trial, they have the right to appeal.