What Are the Differences between a Felony Charge and a Misdemeanor Charge?
Interviewer: What’s the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony charge?
Paul: A few basic rules of thumb, at least in the state of Kansas. Municipal courts or city courts do not have jurisdiction or authority over felony matters. If you’re in the state of Kansas and you need to appear in any of the municipal courts, such as Lenexa Municipal Court, Olathe, Overland Park, or Leawood City Court – you already know you are not facing felony charges because the city court would not be able to charge a felony case.
In Kansas, the Maximum Penalty for a Misdemeanor Offense Is 12 Months Incarceration
Another rule of thumb, maximum penalty for a misdemeanor offence in the state of Kansas is 12 months. The time would be spent in the county jail. Sentences on felony matters can run well beyond 12 months, and if someone does have to serve a sentence on a felony charge they would typically have to serve that sentence in the state department of corrections rather than the county jail where the offense occurred.
Does the State of Kansas Allow for Alternative Punishments?
Interviewer: Are there alternatives punishments to jail that I might qualify for or that you as my attorney could get me into? Such as punishments that fall along the lines of probation or community service. Obviously you want to try and keep your clients out of jail, so if the prosecutor’s going to say, “No, they absolutely … something has to come of this,” what are the other alternatives to jail that people might be looking at as well?
Most Felony Offenses in Kansas Carry the Presumption of Probation
Paul: The vast majority of felony offenses in the state of Kansas or at least I would say half the felony offenses in the state of Kansas carry with them a presumption of probation. It is presumed that even if the person is guilty they should be entitled to a contract of probation, and they would be required to serve the underlying or the suspended prison term only if they violate the terms and conditions of the probation contract.
This Presumption of Probation Entitles Defendants to Serve Terms of Probation in Lieu of Incarceration
It certainly gives counsel a lot of opportunity to negotiate for some sort of a sentence that would allow your client to sleep in their own bed, eat at their own dining room table, and get up and go to work every day, and just try to maintain a life even in the face of a charge for which the client is factually guilty.
What to Look for and What to Look Out for When Interviewing Attorneys
Interviewer: You kind of touched on this earlier, and I just want to expand on that. What kind of credentials should I be looking for when interviewing attorneys or what should be warning signs of maybe this isn’t an attorney that I should work with? What kind of things, again, should they be looking at when hiring a private attorney?
Paul: I actually have a good page on that topic on my website. I think the days of the general practice lawyer are kind of behind us, sort of like the days of the general practice country doctor who used to deliver babies and take out gall bladders.
If You Are Facing Criminal Charges, Look for an Attorney Who Focuses on Criminal Defense
I think the days of generalized practice for the most part are behind us. I would want to talk with a lawyer who limited his practice to if not focused their practice exclusively on criminal defense. At least speak with someone who limits their practice to two or three primary practice areas.
Avoid Attorneys Who Claim to Specialize in Numerous Areas of the Law
I would be cautious about a lawyer who advertises too many areas of practice. In today’s very specialized day and age, it just is not reasonable for any lawyer to know everything about criminal defense work, and everything about workman’s compensation, everything about divorce, custody and family law, and everything about personal injury. That’s just a lot to expect. I would want to talk with someone who limited the practice to criminal defense, or criminal defense and maybe one or two other affiliated practice areas.
Interviewer: To be more specialized.
Experience Counts When It Comes to Choosing the Right Attorney
Paul: I advise speaking to a lawyer who had been practicing for some number of years. The fact of the matter is there is very little practical experience or practical work in the law school process. Unlike medical school that requires internship and residency programs, law school does not. I can assure you that students do not emerge from three years of classroom lecture prepared to try cases to juries in serious criminal matters.
Look for an Attorney Who Is Experienced Defending Cases in the Courtroom
A lot of criminal practice is just pure flight time. You’ll want to talk to someone who has in fact practiced for several years, handled many cases that have gone to trial, bench trial and jury trial, argued many, many evidentiary suppression issues to the court, may have handled some appeals through the court of appeals.
Ask the Attorney How He or She Has Handled Cases Similar to Yours
Make sure you’re talking with someone who, in fact, is experienced handling the type of matter that you face. I’ve always advised clients to ask the lawyer to see some copies of pleadings or motions that they have filed in cases that are similar to the case the client is involved in. “Let me see the type of work you have done for other clients.”
Anytime a lawyer files a motion it is a matter of public record, so any lawyer who acts unwilling or apprehensive about sharing their written work with you, trying to claim something about attorney client privilege, you might want to keep looking. Those motions are filed; they’re a matter of public record. A lawyer should be proud to share with prospective client’s written work that they’ve prepared for and filed on other clients’ behalf.
Interviewer: I don’t think a lot of people know that.
Ask the Attorney How Many Clients They are Working with at This Time
Paul: Also ask the lawyer how many open files they tend to maintain at any given time. I know that number varies from week to week or month to month, but I would be very cautious about a lawyer who has a file cabinet filled with active classes for clients all with pending deadlines, appearance dates, filing deadlines. That’s just a lot for one person to juggle. I would want a lawyer who maintained a little bit smaller, a little bit closer practice who spends more one-on-one time with each individual client and each individual client’s file.
Interviewer: Open files would be the number of cases that they’re currently working on right now as of today?
Call today for free consultation to discuss your case: (913) 322-3265. I represent clients facing serious criminal charges throughout the Kansas City Metro area including the municipalities of Johnson County, Kansas: De Soto, Gardner, Leawood, Lenexa, Merriam, Mission, Olathe, Overland Park, Prairie Village and Shawnee.
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