If I’ve been charged with a crime, do I need legal representation?

Yes, you do! Criminal defense lawyer and criminal defense attorney are interchangeable terms and, if you are charged with a crime, you would be foolish to not retain a criminal lawyer. Being charged with certain crimes (see exception below regarding drug laws) means that you have violated the Penal Code. Penal Code loosely defined is a code of laws which concerns crimes, offenses, and their punishments. The Penal Code is comprised of six (6) parts. Part 1 provides definitions of legal terms as opposed to definitions or punishments for specific crimes; part 2 summarizes the criminal procedure system; part 3 catalogues statutes governing the state’s corrections system (the operations of state prisons and jails and the administration of the death penalty, if applicable); part 4 outlines statutes governing criminal investigations, prison and police officer training, crime control and prevention, and gun control; part 5 deals with the California Peace Officers Memorial Foundation; and finally, part 6 outlines statutes that deal with the management of weapons. Interestingly, however, in California, drug laws are not found in the Penal Code but in the California Health and Safety Code.
Crimes, like people, come in many shapes and sizes. Examples might include driving under the influence (DUI also known as DWI); public intoxication; disorderly conduct; identify theft; drug crimes and controlled substance crimes (drug possession; drug trafficking); domestic violence; grand theft; armed robbery; and the list goes on and on.

What’s the difference between DUI and DWI, and is one worse than the other?

DUI is an acronym which means Driving Under the Influence, while DWI is an acronym which stands for Driving While Impaired. In either event, both terms describe impaired driving. Some states use both terms, however, often one infers to being impaired by alcohol while the other references impairment by drugs or other substances. In states which recognize DWI and DUI as separate offenses, a DWI is typically more serious as DUI is considered impairment to a lesser degree. If a driver is charged for the first time with a drug or alcohol-related offense and their blood alcohol content (BAC) was below the legal limit of .08%, some states offer to reduce the charge from DWI to DUI. In either event, both DWI and DUI are serious violations and overturning them is difficult, especially if the officer had reason to pull the driver over in the first place, or if an FST (Field Sobriety Test) or breathalyzer test proved positive for inebriation above the .08 legal limit. However, it is interesting to note that a person can be charged with DUI or DWI while operating a car, boat, bike or skateboard.

What does it mean to be “drunk in public” and do I need a public intoxication lawyer?

There is no such thing as a public intoxication lawyer per se. A criminal defense attorney is the kind of lawyer you would hire, and he/she would have the experience necessary to handle a “drunk in public” or “public intoxication” charge. The interesting thing about being drunk in public is that the Penal Code section to which this violation pertains [Section 647 subsection (f)] is actually entitled “disorderly conduct”. Subsection (f) states that anyone found in any public place under the influence of intoxicating liquor, drugs, controlled substances, toluene (a chemical compound), or any combination of these items, in a condition that he or she is unable to exercise care for his or her own safety, or the safety of others, or by reason of his or her being under the influence of the above-mentioned substances, interferes with or obstructs or prevents the free use of any street, sidewalk or other public way. In laymen’s terms – – the law on being drunk in public isn’t punishment for literally being drunk in public but punishment for the conduct you express when you are so drunk in public, that you cannot exercise care or safety for yourself or others, or if you are so intoxicated that you interfere with, obstruct, or prevent others from utilizing public ways such as sidewalks and streets.
As with any criminal charge, outcome will vary for a charge of public intoxication. Assuming best case scenario, the charges would be dropped. Worst case scenario is that you can serve jail time. Unlike DUI and DWI, there is no legal limit for being drunk in public. Being charged with public intoxication is based purely on the subjective analysis (personal opinions, interpretations, point of view and/or judgment) of the arresting officer.

What types of theft crimes are there, and do I need a theft crimes attorney?

Like above, there is no such thing as a theft crimes attorney but what you would want to enlist is the help of a criminal defense attorney. There is also a broad spectrum of crimes involving theft. Larceny theft or larceny is unlawfully taking and carrying away property belonging to someone else; but the person engaging in this action must have the intent to permanently deprive someone of the use of said property. Too, there is grand theft (also known as grand larceny) and these types of crimes involve property or money where the value of the stolen item(s) are over $500 or $1,000 depending on the state where you reside.

Do I need to hire an attorney if I get caught shoplifting?

Shoplifting is a type of theft crime and generally involves stealing merchandise from a business or store. Make no mistake, however, shoplifting is a type of larceny as it involves taking the property of someone without permission with the intent to permanently deprive the business or store owner of the property taken.

What about robbery?

If you are charged with robbery, this is the taking of property from someone or a place, unlawfully, with threat or force. If you are carrying a weapon at the time of the robbery, then you most likely will be charged with armed robbery, which is considered to be a much more serious offense.

What about the crime of identity theft?

Fraudulently obtaining and using someone else’s private identifying information for your personal or financial gain is the crime of identity theft and, like other crimes, can have serious repercussions.

I may need a domestic violence lawyer.

Domestic violence can be classified as both a misdemeanor and felony and involves a current or former intimate partner, spouse, or cohabitant. Being accused of domestic violence means that the accused has displayed aggressive behavior or acted violently within a home so as to cause physical harm to a victim. Whether you are the accused or the victim, seeking the assistance of a criminal lawyer who has experience with domestic violence matters is recommended.

I’ve been charged with a crime where I need a sexual assault lawyer. Can SKT help me?

Yes, we can. Sexual assault is a broad category which can include, but is not limited to, sexual contact with minors (even if it’s consensual on the minor’s part), unwanted touching in a sexual manner, rape, marital rape, incest, sexual contact that is unwanted or coerced, sexual harassment (e.g. in the work place), soliciting minor children via the world wide web, and possessing child porn.

I have a criminal record and I want to have it cleaned up. Does SKT have expungement lawyers?

Yes, SKT is intimate with the expungement process. Not all crimes can be expunged, however. Expunging a criminal record means that you seek to “wipe out” or “erase” your criminal past from background checks. If you have a conviction or convictions on your record, you might be able to have them expunged, sealed or removed altogether from public record. However, consulting with an attorney who knows their way around the judicial system is your best avenue of pursuit.