There is a legal maxim in our country that ignorance of the law is no excuse. In other words, criminal charges won’t be automatically dropped simply because you did not know that your actions are considered a crime. But laws continue to evolve, and in reality, it takes an experienced, highly trained Stamford criminal lawyer to represent your interests and protect your rights if you are charged with a crime in Connecticut. Attorney Mark Sherman, who has law offices in Stamford, CT and New York, New York, believes that everyone should have a basic understanding of their rights, and should know when to seek the services of a Greenwich criminal attorney. Here he provides answers to some frequently asked questions:
Q. What is the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony?
A. The primary difference is primarily the severity of the punishment for the offense. In Connecticut, a felony is defined by statute as any offense which can be punished by more than a year of incarceration. Conversely, a misdemeanor is an offense with a punishment of one year or less. Felonies and misdemeanors are further classified for the purpose of imposing sentences.
Q. I have been offered a plea bargain from a more serious felony to a less serious felony. Should I accept this?
A. Plea bargains are sometimes the best option for a defendant, but this is not something you should accept without the help of a Stamford criminal attorney. The goal of the attorneys at Mark Sherman Law is to either get the charges dropped altogether or to achieve the lowest charge and penalty possible. While both misdemeanors and felonies stay on your record, the long term consequences of a felony conviction are much more damaging and it’s in your best interest to have the charges dropped to a misdemeanor if at all possible.
Q. How do those long-term consequences differ?
A. The nature of the charges can permanently affect where you work, live, your access to public assistance, college grants and certain tax credits. Some employers who refuse to hire anyone with a felony conviction will accept applicants with a misdemeanor record. If the charge is drug related, then the difference is significant on a federal level as well. People convicted of a felony drug offense are ineligible for a number of federal benefits including Pell grants for college and federal education tax credits. This is not the case with a misdemeanor conviction. An experienced Stamford criminal lawyer should be able to explain the impact of your specific charges and will know if there are diversionary programs which can clean up your record and eliminate the long-term impact.
Q. What is the function of a public defender? Can anyone use the services of a public defender if they have been accused with a crime?
A. A public defender is an attorney paid by the government to represent a person facing criminal charges who is considered by state statute as being indigent. Just because a person does not feel they have the discretionary funds to pay for legal representation does not qualify them for this assistance.
Q. When should a person engage an attorney?
A. As soon as possible. If you are currently being questioned in relation to a crime, then you don’t have to wait to be charged before contacting an attorney. In fact, the sooner you get legal help, the better your chances are for a favorable resolution. At Mark Sherman Law, you will find an advocate who will passionately defend you, your rights and your future.
Mark Sherman, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Fordham University of Law, has been a member in good standing of the Bars of Connecticut, New York and Florida since 1998. He has offices in Stamford, Connecticut and New York, New York and practices in both locations. He has been selected by his peers as a “Super Lawyer” by both New England and Connecticut Super Lawyers for 2011, 2012 and 2013.