Criminal Defense Questions and Answers
Q: If someone is from Vermont or Canada, and they are arrested in New York on a DWI, what happens? Where’s the case handled and who do they need to contact?
A: The case is handled in New York. It’s handled wherever the crime occurs and it will impact their privileges to drive in New York. The consequences they may have in their home state or country will be determined by that home state or country. They will definitely need an attorney in New York, familiar with New York law, to address the immediate consequences, penalties, fines, jail time, and so on, stemming from the DWI. They should also consult with an attorney in their home jurisdiction to see what impact it will have there. An attorney here may say they recommend a plea resolution to a lesser offense, but that still may have a serious impact in the person’s home state or country.
A person in that situation should absolutely hire a local New York attorney to handle the charges. But they should also have that attorney consult with an attorney in their home jurisdiction so that the person can be best informed as to the collateral consequences of what happens in New York.
Q: How do you address the money concerns? How much is my defense going to cost me? How do you address that whole side of the issue with people?
A: Everybody’s situation is different. It’s impossible to have a price list for various offenses because different people’s situations are different. Different charges are different. Some cases, while the charge may be fairly straightforward, it may be a very complex case requiring a lot of investigation. Or, it may be a very simple straightforward case and the person anticipates pleading guilty. Just wants to move their case and handle it as quickly as possible for whatever reason, but doesn’t want to be railroaded. Wants to make sure that yes, I understand I’m going to plead guilty, but I want to make sure I minimize the consequences.
For me, personally, I don’t think I can properly represent somebody and quote them a fee before I know the details of their situation. There may be more to their situation than they’re even aware of. That’s how I assess how much to charge them on an individual basis.
As for paying it, that’s also something that handles individually. Sometimes everything is paid up front. Sometimes it’s paid over installments. I also can take credit cards for payment. There are different ways to handle the payment of the fee. Different people are able to do different things.
The important thing is to get in to talk to someone. Have somebody come in to talk to me. Then we can discuss their individual circumstances to work out something that works for them and works for me.
Former New York state prosecutor Thomas J. Melanson represents clients in the Hudson Valley from his office in Kingston, New York. This interview was from March 2013.