The answer is simple: most people cannot afford to pay a St. Louis criminal defense attorney the types of fees they demand for service. For example, a typical quote of fees for a run-of-the-mill St. Louis marijuana possession can run anywhere between $1,000 and $1,500. And most people just cannot pay that much. So instead of having an experienced attorney help them through the process, these individuals just show up to court by themselves.
MOST ST LOUIS MISDEMEANORS CAN BE HANDLED FOR ONLY $375
What happens to them once they get to court? The end result is usually not good. Below is a description of what these folks normally run into when they represent themselves. But in the end, most people fall into the same category: they make too much income to be assigned to a public defender (that office is reserved for those who cannot afford an attorney, but you have to meet certain low-income level requirements to be eligible), and they do not have enough money laying around (like an extra $1,500) to pay a regular attorney.
But here’s the rub: most low-level misdemeanors (less than 35 grams of marijuana, trespassing, peace disturbance, possession of drug paraphernalia, etc.) are almost always handled the same way by an attorney. The attorney simply sends in an Entry of Appearance (or speaks briefly with the prosecutor on the night of court), and gets a recommendation from the prosecutor. This “recommendation” is document that the prosecutor gives to the judge which recommends how the case should be handled. And in most cases, the prosecutor is willing to either reduced the charges to some minor infraction (like “littering,” which does not even show up on your record), or recommend an SIS (which involves a period of probation, after the completion of which the original charges drop off altogether).
So it’s a fairly straightforward affair. In fact, the process just described is almost the exact same way in which an attorney handles a common speeding ticket (sends in an EOA to the court, and a few weeks later receives a recommendation from the prosecutor reducing the speeding ticket to a non-moving violation).
And this is exactly why we have decided as a law firm to keep our fees (for misdemeanors) so low. Everyone should be able to have access to an attorney. But not having enough money to pay for one should not be a barrier!! Especially when a good portion of the work involved on the attorney’s end is similar to that of a traffic ticket!
$375 FOR MOST ST LOUIS CRIMINAL MATTERS
But in case you are wondering, here is what you can expect if you were to go to court by yourself (without an attorney): there will be a room full of people sitting on folding chairs (these are the people who have been charged with a crime); there will be a table (or bench) at the front of the room at which the judge, bailiff, clerk (and sometimes the prosecutor) sit; there will be a bunch of cops milling around; and there will be a handful of dark-suited men and women standing off to the side. These sharply-dressed people on the side are attorneys that have been hired by the folks sitting on folding chairs who could actually afford a lawyer. The lawyers go first. They get a quick recommendation from the prosecutor, and they are out the door. Then the judge will start calling out the names (alphabetically) of everyone else remaining in the courtroom. Once your name is called, you will be asked to stand at a podium in front of the bench. The judge will say, “You’ve been charged with (enter misdemeanor here). How do you plead?” At this point, most people will try and give their version of the facts in their particular case. But the judge will cut you off very quickly, and say, “I’m not trying your case right now! I’m asking how you wish to plea to the charges. Do you plead guilty, or not guilty?!”
PLEADING GUILTY IS NOT YOUR BEST OPTION!!
I can’t even begin to tell you the number of people in this very situation end up pleading guilty (because they have no idea what else to do). Now they have a criminal conviction on their permanent record (which will make things very difficult for them in the future if they want to get a job or an apartment, or even go to college).
The affordable St. Louis criminal defense attorneys at The Law Office of Jennifer Alter-Rieken, have been helping people with their misdemeanor charges for over ten (10) years. Our goal is to make sure that the charges leveled against you do not stay on your permanent record, and do any lasting damage. And we want to do all of this at an affordable price. The fees for a typical misdemeanor case start at $375. But the initial consultation to discuss your legal issues is free of charge. So contact us today!!
We have two main locations: in the Central West End of St. Louis, at 1 North Taylor (on the corner of Taylor and Laclede), 63108; and in the Twin Cities of Festus / Crystal City, at 1000 Truman Blvd (Highway 61/67), 63019. The initial consultation is free of charge. So contact us today to learn more!!