In January this year, I was cited for marijuana possession. This happened in MD but a 3 hour drive from where I live. Soon after, I received my court date, along with a lot of advertisement from local lawyers.
I was arrested along with a friend who had been previously charged with a dui about a year ago and was still on probation. Since it was my first offense, and I couldn't afford it I didn't contract a lawyer. My friend however contacted his lawyer soon before the trial, and he advised him to ask for a diversion program, or for a continuance.
When we arrived to the court, someone came and asked to speak with us outside the court room. She told us she noticed we were not represented and asked us what we were going to say. My friend told him what his lawyer said, and she said that in this county they never offer diversion programs for such crimes, and that we were lucky the old judge was dead because he was usually putting people in jail for those offenses. Of course, we soon realized that she was the prosecutor, so I wonder if that information she gave us was valid. in the end, we ended up asking for a continuance, and the judge said he would not have any problems if we hired one lawyer (we were called together and it seems we are on the same case. however he said it would be the lawyer that would tell us if there was a problem representing us both). Therefore I can't help but wonder what I should be looking at if i cannot request a diversion program.
I haven't decided yet if I'm going to hire the same lawyer as my friend. The main advantage would be to share the cost I suppose (although we have different priors so that is still uncertain). The disadvantage is that he has had his dui for over a year and a half or 2 years, so I dont really feel he's that good. However I have a few questions.
1) I received the new court date and it's in less than a month. Is that sufficient time to hire a lawyer? From what I understand I'm only allowed to ask for a continuance once.
2) Is it true it's better to hire someone local? Quite frankly I'm don't have much faith in the lawyers from such a small county, but at the same time I have no experience being in this position. What I wonder is also how many lawyers will be willing to travel there, if I decide to hire someone from a lawy firm close to where I live.
3) Is it possible to get an estimate of the costs I'm looking at? I might have to get some money transferred from Europe to cover the cost.
NB: I don't think this is useful, but about a week before the trial, I received a letter from the criminal lab. It only had my friend's name on it and was only showing the gross weight of the cigarettes that were ceized. My friend never received that document, and I'm wondering what is the point of it if it doesn't show the real amount of narcotics that were found.
Thanks for your help
PS: i forgot something. How do I come about finding the right lawyer for this case? There are millions of them out there, and I already know a few stories about people that have been misrepresented. How do I avoid those, and find the best one?