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.
With few exceptions these steps apply in every case we take at The Ambeau Law Firm. State and federal prosecutions are different in some ways, I have focused on the state process below.
INITIAL MOTIONS: We begin each case at our firm with a set of initial motions; (1) A motion to enroll as counsel of record, (2) An extensive motion for discovery, to get all of the information we can from the prosecution in accord with the law and/or the policy of the particular District Attorney's office, and (3) A set of motions related to pre-trial rights such as preliminary examination, suppression, bond setting/reduction, etc…, as they apply in particular cases.
A Motion to Enroll is essentially exactly what it sounds like – a motion to inform the Court and prosecutor that we are your attorney. It also serves to stop the police from going to you and asking you to make a statement, as they are precluded from initiating communication with a represented person.
A Motion for Discovery is the defense request for the prosecution to turn over all the evidence in their possession as required under the law. It contains very specific requests to preserve your rights and to begin to place the burden on the State/Government to prove the case against you. Discovery can be a very complicated area of the law and your defense; and there are 100s, if not 1000s, of cases related to what/when/where/how discovery is made available to the defense. Including, for example; Brady v. Maryland that requires the prosecutor to turn over all evidence favorable to the defense in the possession of the prosecutor; Jencks v. United Stateswhich requires the prosecutor to produce any previous statement by witnesses called at trial; and Giglio v. United States which requires the prosecutor to give the defense any evidence of an inducement to testify – leniency, promise not to prosecute, plea deal, etc…
We have considerable skill and experience in fighting for the receipt of discovery and/or excluding evidence from use at trial not given to the defense consistent with the law related to discovery.
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 cases. It is important to note that this motion is listed after the motion for discovery. In the Louisiana courts the defendant is allowed a single hearing to determine/reduce bond, in most circumstances, and having a hearing for a bond reduction without being in possession the evidence against the defendant, one of the considerations of bond, is not the best use of this one opportunity. We often advise clients to wait, though not every time, for the receipt of discovery before moving for a bond setting/reduction. 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 and therefore 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 confront (cross examine) the State's witnesses in this proceeding and a right to 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. This is an important hearing and should be handled by a skilled and experienced attorney. Our trial attorney, Jarrett Ambeau, has handled ~1000 preliminary examinations in his career. We are prepared to bring the fight at this stage, and every other, in this matter, for your 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 cases.
COMMUNICATION: We also often send communication directly to the law enforcement agency making the arrest and the agency holding the person if applicable. 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 and it is imperative to inform us of any previous statements so we can take appropriate action if necessary.
INITIAL INVESTIGATION: It is imperative that we talk to the defendant as soon as we are hired. If that means we have to 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 – we need to have as much information as possible. In many cases we also talk to witnesses and visit crime scenes very early in our representation. Again time here is important because memories fade and physical spaces change over time.
CAVEAT: Even though it seems like this is a significant amount of activity, and it is, one of the most difficult parts of the beginning of representation of criminal defendants is realizing that the criminal justice system is painfully slow. From a lay persons's 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 start to finish is 9-24 months (much faster in Federal court system), with some complicated homicide cases taking years to bring to trial. 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 on the best interest of the client and working to get the best outcome possible.
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.