These steps apply to every criminal defense case we take at The Ambeau Law Firm with few exceptions. State and federal prosecutions are different in some ways, the following outlines the court process for criminal charges in Louisiana.
We begin each case with a set of initial motions:
- Motion to enroll as counsel of record
- Motion for discovery
Depending on your case, we may also file a set of motions related to pre-trial rights, such as:
- Preliminary examination
- Bond setting
- Bond reduction
A Motion to Enroll informs the Court and prosecutor that we are your attorney and will represent you. It also stops the police from contacting you directly to ask you to make a statement, as they are precluded from initiating communication with a represented person.
A Motion for Discovery requests the prosecution to turn over all evidence in their possession as required under the law. The motion for discovery contains specific requests to preserve your rights and begins to place the burden on the State/Government to prove the case against you.
Discovery can be a complicated area of the law and your defense. There are many cases related to what, when, where and how discovery is made available to the defense. Cases that have set precedence for discovery include:
- Brady v. Maryland requires the prosecutor to turn over all evidence favorable to the defense in the possession of the prosecutor
- Jencks v. United States requires the prosecutor to produce any previous statement by witnesses called at trial
- Giglio v. United States requires the prosecutor to give the defense any evidence of an inducement to testify, including leniency, promise not to prosecute, plea deal, etc.
The criminal defense attorneys at The Ambeau Law Firm are skilled and experienced in fighting for the receipt of discovery and excluding evidence from trial that was not given to the defense.
A Motion for Bond Setting/Reduction is a Constitutional right in the State of Louisiana and can only be denied to defendants in Louisiana under very limited circumstances. It is important to note that this motion is listed after the motion for discovery. In Louisiana, the defendant is allowed a single hearing to determine or reduce bond in most circumstances. Having a hearing for a bond reduction without possessing the evidence against the defendant, which is one of the considerations of a bond, is not the best use of this one opportunity. We often advise clients to wait for the receipt of discovery before moving for a bond setting or reduction, though this does not apply to every case. The decision to file and hold a hearing on this motion should be made with the advice of counsel.
A Motion for Preliminary Examination is a Constitutional right in the State of Louisiana that cannot be taken from a defendant. This is the opportunity to have the Court examine probable cause in the matter. The burden is on the State to offer evidence, including testimonial evidence, sufficient to reach the probable cause burden.
The defense also has the right to:
- Cross-examine the State's witnesses
- Call witnesses in defense
This is often the first opportunity to consider the power of the evidence being offered against a defendant, even if limited, and a first opportunity to get testimony on the record under oath. The preliminary hearing is critical to your case and should be handled by a skilled and experienced attorney. Trial attorney Jarrett Ambeau has handled more than 1,000 preliminary examinations in his career. We are prepared to bring the fight at every stage in your defense.
Communicating on Your Behalf
Your attorney will communicate directly with the law enforcement agency that made the arrest and the agency holding the defendant if they are incarcerated. We usually do this when a client has made a previous statement and we want to be sure to stop any further questioning. This is not automatic. It is imperative to inform us of any previous statements you or the defendant has made to law enforcement so we can take appropriate action if necessary.
It is of the utmost importance that we talk to the defendant as soon as we are hired. If that means we must travel to a place of incarceration, we will do so very quickly, with few exceptions. Time is important here as memories are naturally diminishing resources and we need to have as much information as possible to develop a defense. In many cases, we also talk to witnesses and visit crime scenes early in our representation.
The criminal justice system is painfully slow. From a lay persons' perspective, the system can seem uncaring and purposefully cumbersome. It is difficult to know that you, or your loved one, is suffering under the weight of a criminal prosecution and that it will take significant time to see results.
In some cases, results are surprisingly fast, but the normal time frame for adjudication of a felony matter from start to finish is 9-24 months. However, complicated homicide cases may take years to bring to trial. The process is often much faster in the Federal court system. We work to make this as fast as we can, while considering the best interests of the defendant. All decisions, including those related to the speed of the process, are measured only in the client's best interest and working to get the best outcome possible.
REMINDER: DO NOT talk to anyone about your matter before communicating with an attorney. There are times where communication is the best way forward, but that decision should be made with the advice of counsel. If you wish to remain silent the most important thing to do is REMAIN SILENT – DO NOT TALK. If you do not wish to speak, you must invoke your right to counsel by saying something like, “I do not want to answer any questions without speaking to my attorney first.” You have to be clear, if you are not clear, say it over and over again until you get it right – and do not say anything else – REMAIN SILENT.
IMPORTANT: This is not legal advice. I have provided this in an effort to inform you of what to expect, not to advise you on a course of action. Please consult with an attorney before making any decision that may affect your legal rights, liberty, freedom, or safety.