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Have a Family Member Charged with Crime?

Facing a criminal charge can be stressful.  Not only will you need to defend yourself but you will need to be able to pay for that defense while making sure that the rest of your life does not fall apart.  This is a tricky proposition and, truth be told, few people can pull it off.  One reason is the lack of available time, while another reason the lack of available funds.   Yet, this is the one time in your life when you can’t afford for thing to go wrong.  As such, here are information on how to make sure a criminal charge does not ruin your finances.

 

It Can Cost Far More Than You Would Think

 

Besides the jail time and fines associated with breaking the law, there is also the cost of mounting a defense.  While the courts are required to arrange a public defender if you cannot pay for your defense, these lawyers tend to be heavily burdened and are not the best legal minds around.In some cases, public defenders might not be available.  For example, a statute in Nashville, Tennessee dictates that people charged with a crime can only rely upon the services of a public defender if their annual income is 125% below the federal poverty level.  At that limit, anyone earning more than $14,713 per year will have to pay for their own defense. This can get expensive as criminal attorneys can charge $600 per hour or more and then you will also need to pay for their administrative support and investigators.  As such, it could cost you $20,000 or more to defend yourself from a criminal charge.

 

While the costs could be higher, paying for a criminal defense is not easy.  Imagine you are facing drug charges.  In this case, the authorities might seize everything you own, as they might believe it was purchased with money connected to the trade in illicit drugs. If that wasn’t bad enough, you might also need to post bail.  But without any assets to pledge against the bond you may be looking at spending time in jail before you case even comes to court.

 

Wrongly Charged? 

Even if you do everything right, mistakes can happen and maybe you will come home to find the police waiting for you.   The law is extremely complex and from time-to-time individuals are wrongly charged. This can be catastrophic on several levels – including financially.  Not only will the authorities seize your property, but you will also need to make arrangements at work so that you can meet the conditions of your bail. In addition, there is no guarantee that you will be acquitted.  In 2015, 149 had their convictions overturned.  One example is Debra Milke, who spent 26 years in prison, including 22 years on death row, before she was exonerated.

 

Know Your Rights

Based on their experience under British rule, our Founding Fathers did not completely trust the courts.  They understood that ‘justice’ could be easily abuse under the name of enforcing the law and that even those charged with the most heinous crimes are privy to certain rights. One of these is the right to defend yourself.  As mentioned, different states limit access to public defenders.  So, if you are charged with a crime found out what are the conditions for a public defender. In addition, you will want to get out of jail as soon as possible.  This means posting bail.  In some cases, you might need a lawyer for this.  Sometimes the easiest, and least expensive, option is to use a public defender for your bail hearing and then retain another attorney when your case goes to court.

 

Have a Plan 

Being charged with a crime is serious and the costs can add up quickly.  If you find yourself in this situation, then you want to make sure you have a plan to address the situation.  This includes contacting several attorneys to find out their retainer and their costs if you go to trial. Also, you want to know the terms of your bail including how much it will cost and what assets you will need to pledge.  Then there are potential fines, you will want to work with your attorney to find out what they are and how you will be able to pay for them.

 

Finally, you will want to have a discussion with your employer to work out a plan for work.  This includes the time off you need for work and how you will handle certain contingencies including going to jail.  This will give you an idea of your future income stream and will help you to offset some of the costs associated with defending yourself.

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