Explanations and Definitions
The information on the pages in this section will help you understand what is happening with your case, what to expect, different phrases you will hear, and more.
While not a complete run-down of the entire Justice System, after reading this section you will have a much better understanding of what is happening to you now, and what will happen to you as you go along.
Presenting a counterfeit check at the bank on which it was drawn: When you take a check to the bank it was drawn on for cashing, they are forced to call the police. This is standard policy at all banks when presented with a counterfeit, stolen, or forged check drawn on one of their customer accounts. Had you taken it to another bank you would still be in trouble, but it is unlikely that you would have been arrested.
Priors: The term "priors" refers to past arrests/convictions, in other words, a record. Priors may or may not affect the arresting officer's attitude toward you; however, it will definitely affect that attitude if you have a record of drug-related activity or violence.
Priors are seldom admissible in criminal court unless the arrest/conviction was for the same crime, and even then the record may be disallowed.
When speaking with law enforcement and your attorney, IT IS ALWAYS BEST to admit to having a record and to avoid making any excuses for it.
Probation vs. Parole: Parole occurs after a person has been incarcerated, usually for a felony. Parole means the person has served time for the crime and must report to a Parole Officer for whatever period of time has been ordered by the court.
Probation is a bit different. Probation is frequently ordered by the court instead of jail time in a misdemeanor case, and it means that the person must report to a Probation Officer on the dates ordered by the court.
Probation may last anywhere from 6 months to a year. During this time, the person must report to the Probation Officer, ON TIME on the appointed dates.
Any violation of the conditions of the probation (including being late for or entirely missing an appointment) can, and often does, result in the person being put back in jail. Depending on the state and the conditions of the crime, violation of probation can also mean that the prior misdemeanor charge is changed to a felony charge.
Public Defense Attorney, Public Defender (PDA): You cannot obtain the services of a Public Defender nor have one assigned to you unless you have been arrested and cannot afford a private Criminal Defense Attorney.
If you are assigned a Public Defense Attorney, the one who appears at your arraignment may not be the same one who handles your case. Be prepared for one or more changes in the assigned Public Defense Attorneys and be prepared for the possibility that your attorney will not answer your phone calls.
Public Defense Attorneys are always overloaded with cases, and clients who are anxious and worried have a tendency to want to speak with their attorney about issues that carry no real importance at the time.
If your PDA does not return your phone calls or does not meet with you as often as you feel is appropriate, that does not mean that he will not perform to the best of his ability on your behalf.
If your PDA is not performing on your behalf at all, you can request another attorney. It's not an easy thing to do so please come back to us for advice and procedure.
In some states, there is a nominal fee that must be paid to the Public Defender’s Office for the service of your attorney. This fee may be as little as $50 as much as $200.
See Your and Your Attorney for more information about working with your attorney