Criminal law is the body of law that deals with crimes and their prosecution. It regulates social conduct and proscribes actions that are threatening, harmful, or otherwise endangering to the property, health, safety, and moral welfare of people. It includes the punishment of people who violate these laws. Criminal law varies according to jurisdiction, and differs from civil law, where emphasis is more on dispute resolution and victim compensation than on punishment.
The Law Offices of McKenzie & Tehrani is dedicated to helping people through what is often the most difficult time in their lives. When you are charged with a crime, or even being investigated or questioned by law enforcement, it is never an easy process. It can be embarrassing, intimidating, and even downright scary. Most people have no idea what to say, who to turn to, or how to handle these situations. It is simply not something you learn in school or from your parents – that is why having a lawyer that you can trust is so important. Because no two cases are the same, and no two clients have exactly the same issues or priorities, you must be able to trust that your lawyer excels at what he does, will always be honest with you, and will focus on helping you on a personal level.
When Mr. McKenzie and Mr. Tehrani started this practice, more than anything else, we were resolved to not make the same mistakes that we witnessed other lawyers make during our time working in the prosecutor’s office and as law clerks to Montgomery County circuit court judges. Too often, lawyers would approach us about their client’s case not really knowing anything about the person who had placed so much trust in their hands. The reality is that in order to fight for your client, you have to know who your client is and what is important to them. That means being available to answer questions, examine the case in detail, and simply talk about the ways in which their lives are being affected by the situation that they are in.
Our experience on both sides of the criminal justice aisle provides us with a unique insight and expertise into what it takes to come out on top both in the courtroom and when dealing with the other side. We handle cases at all levels of the criminal justice system, from federal court, state and county courts, all the way down to traffic offenses. No matter how big or small the problem facing you, the goal is that you leave the office feeling better about the situation than when you came in the door, and that at the end of the day, you can get on with your life and leave those troubles in the past.
Our practice is geared towards helping individuals and families across the Washington Metropolitan Area navigate through the legal process, minimize the effect of the legal system on their daily lives, and come out on the winning side in any legal matter. We believe in doing superior work for a fair fee, and client satisfaction and comfort will always be our top priority. This is why our motto has always been “A Personal Approach with Proven Results.” We take your case as seriously as you take the decision to hire a lawyer. Anything less is a waste of time.
Frequently Asked Questions
THESE QUESTIONS & ANSWERS ARE FOR INFORMATION ONLY AND SHOULD NOT BE TAKEN AS LEGAL ADVICE
What happens if I am arrested?
If you are arrested for breaking a criminal law, the case is taken before a judge or magistrate who may issue a warrant if necessary and set bond for appearance in court. If the defendant cannot post the bond he may be incarcerated pending appearance in court. If bond is posted, he will remain free pending appearance at an arraignment. An arraignment usually occurs within 24 hours of the arrest or the first date available if on a weekend or holiday. The arraignment is held before a judge. During the arraignment the defendant is formally told what offense he is charged with, and told their constitutional rights. The defendant will enter a plea of guilty or not guilty, bond may be reviewed, and a judge is assigned to the case.
Can police officers use force to arrest me?
A police officer may use as much force as is necessary to arrest you. However, unreasonable force is considered assault. After arrest, a police officer may handcuff you if you attempt to escape or if the officer considers it necessary to prevent you from escaping. If you claim that force was used to arrest you, a judge with decide whether or not the force used was reasonable in the circumstances.
What is a search warrant?
A search warrant is an order issued by a judge that authorizes police officers to conduct a search of a specific location. Before a search warrant may be issued, there must be a showing of probable cause.
What is a probable cause?
This is a difficult one. There is no bright-line rule establishing precisely what is and what is not considered probable cause. However, what has become apparent is that a finding of probable cause requires objective facts indicating a likelihood of criminal activity. A police officer’s hunch, with nothing more, will not satisfy the requirements.
If a police officer knocks on my door and asks to search my home, do I have to let the officer in?
Unless the officer has a warrant, you are under no legal obligation to let the officer search your residence.
What if I agree to the search?
If you voluntarily consent to a search of your home, automobile or person, the officer can then conduct a full search without a warrant. Anything the officer finds during that search can later be used against you in court.
What is the plain view doctrine?
Police officers do not need a warrant to seize contraband that is in plain view if the officer is in a place that he or she has a right to be.
Example: Officer Doright is standing in your doorway talking to you about the weather. While talking, Officer Drought notices a bag of cocaine and a sawed-off shotgun on your couch. Officer Doright can legally seize these items without a search warrant because they are in plain view.
What is bail?
Bail is money or other property that is deposited with the court to ensure that the person accused will return to court when he or she is required to do so. If the defendant returns to court as required, the bail will be returned at the end of the case, even if the defendant is ultimately convicted. However, if the defendant does not come to court when required or violates his or her bail conditions, the bail will be forfeited to the court and will not be returned.
What types of bail may the court set?
- Recognizance: This is the defendant’s written promise to appear in court on the date set and abide by the terms set by the magistrate or judge. No monetary pledge, cash deposit of security by property or professional bondsman is required.
- Unsecured Bond: This release pending court appearance is based on the defendant’s written agreement to appear in court on the date set and abide by the conditions set by the magistrate or judge. It is backed by an agreement by the defendant to forfeit money to the court if she or he does not appear in court on the date set.
- Secured Bond: This is secured by either a cash deposit, a pledge of real or personal property, or a pledge by a third party that the defendant will appear in court on the date set and abide by the conditions of the release. The judge may forfeit any type of security in the event that the defendant does not appear in court on the date set.
If I am arrested, can the officer search me?
- Police officers do not need a warrant to conduct a search after making an arrest. After making and arrest, the officer can legally search the person being arrested and the area in the immediate control of the person.
What Happens at a preliminary hearing?
- Every person who is charged by warrant is entitled to a preliminary hearing. If a person remains in jail, he or she is entitled to a preliminary hearing, usually within 10 days of arrest. If a person is released from jail on bond, he or she is entitled to a preliminary hearing within 15 days of arrest.
- A preliminary hearing is an examination of the charge against the accused. The prosecutor must present evidence and witnesses that prove that it appears that an offense has been committed and that there is a probable cause to believe that the person accused committed the offense. The accused may cross-examine witnesses and may present evidence if he or she wishes.
- If the judge makes a finding of probable cause after hearing the evidence, the charge is sent to the grand jury. If the judge does not find that it appears that an offense has been committed or that the accused is likely the person who committed an offense, the accused is discharged and the charge is dismissed. If the accused is discharged and the charge is dismissed after a preliminary hearing, the prosecutor may still present evidence to the grand jury to see if they will find probable cause.
What happens at an arraignment?
- You have the right to be arraigned without unnecessary delay after being arrested. You will appear before a judge who will tell you officially of the charges against you at your first arraignment. At the arraignment, and attorney may be appointed for you if you cannot afford one, and bail can be raised or lowered. You also can ask to be released on personal recognizance, even if bail was previously set.
- If you are charged with a misdemeanor, you can plead guilty or not guilty at the arraignment. Or, if the court approves, you can plead nolo contendere, meaning that you do not admit guilt but you admit the truth of the facts alleged in the complaint or indictment. Legally, this is the same as a guilty plea; however, it cannot be used against you in a subsequent civil case.
- Before pleading guilty to some first time offenses, such as drug possession in small amounts for personal use, you may want to find out if your county has any drug diversion programs. Under these programs, instead of fining you or sending you to jail, the court may order you to get counseling which can result in dismissal of the charges if you complete the counseling.
- If misdemeanor charges are not dropped, a trial will be held later in the municipal court. If you are charged with a felony and the charges are not dismissed, the next step is a preliminary hearing.
I am afraid I was caught red handed. Is it even worth hiring an attorney, or should I save my money and take my chances?
- If you are charged with a crime in Maryland, you should always seek the counsel of an experienced criminal defense attorney. You may have many defenses available to you that are not obvious to you. Do not despair, help is available. There are very few situations in which we cannot help our client improve their situation. Even in situations where our clients are clearly guilty of committing a crime, we routinely get charges dropped or reduced, and punishments reduced. We are very good at securing alternatives to jail for even our most guilty clients including work release, house arrest, electronic monitoring, or community service.
Is it possible to beat a DUI charge?
- There are many ways to successfully defend against a charge for DUI. A skilled criminal lawyer knows how to attack a DUI charge strategically, so as to maximize the possibility of a successful defense. These cases are not as straightforward as you might think. Many clients come in fearing the worst, only to be pleasantly surprised. You should always consult with an attorney before going to court on a DUI; do not assume that you should plead guilty. Even where a conviction is imminent, many DUIs can be negotiated down to reckless driving charges.
Do I even need a private attorney? Why not just use a public defender?
- While a public defender may be available to help those who are indigent, that does not mean that a public defender is the best option for you. For example, one clear advantage of hiring a private attorney, especially if you are facing a misdemeanor, is that a private attorney can often go to court on your behalf, thereby keeping you out of court. If you are represented by a public defender, you will have to appear at court at every single court date.
- Moreover, many people elect to hire private attorneys in order to get the level of customer service and personalized attention that a private attorney can provide.
Will the court provide me with a public defender?
It is true that public defenders are provided to those charged with serious crimes who absolutely cannot afford an attorney, but if the court finds that you meet their financial qualifications, you will be denied representation by a public defender and required to hire your own private attorney.
This is my first time being charged with a crime. Does the court take that into consideration?
Yes. Part of the analysis the court will undergo when determining how severe punishment for a crime should be, is determining if the defendant has committed crimes in the past. Typically in Maryland, individuals who have little or no prior criminal history will receive lighter punishments than those with extensive criminal backgrounds. An experienced criminal defense attorney knows how to emphasize the importance of the fact that his client has a clean criminal history, while minimizing the impact in the case of an extensive criminal record.
Is it possible to get my charges completely dismissed?
The short answer is yes. We regularly have clients whose charges get dismissed prior to a jury trial, but this typically only occurs if the incriminating evidence is particularly weak. In most instances, if you are being charged with a crime, the only way you can expect a positive result is to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to represent you. A skilled attorney will know how to achieve the best result possible for you through either a plea bargain, or by taking your case to trial.