Cleveland Criminal Defense Lawyer

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Cleveland Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are arrested for any crime in Cleveland, it’s natural to have lots of important legal questions about your situation that you will not be able to answer on your own. Many people placed under arrest are not fully aware of their rights or know what to do in this situation, and many make serious mistakes that negatively impact the outcomes of their cases. If you have been arrested, you need to speak with a Cleveland criminal defense lawyer as quickly as possible.

Northeast Ohio Criminal Defense Lawyer – Matthew C. Bangerter, Esq.

Criminal charges can result in serious and lifelong consequences, putting your freedom and future at risk. Accordingly, it is important to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney like Matthew C. Bangerter, ESQ. in order to learn your legal options and to protect your legal rights.

It’s not hard for the criminal defense system in Northeast Ohio to become confusing, and with so much on the line, you deserve to work with someone you can trust to represent you well. Any charge you face, big or small, causes stress to you, your friends and your family, but it’s important to know that you don’t have to go through this alone. Choose to work with an attorney who will fight for your rights. Matthew Bangerter is a respected and experienced attorney in Northeast Ohio, and he is dedicated to helping clients receive fair and just trials.

Matthew Bangerter has handled hundreds of serious cases in Ohio and understands forensic evidence. This knowledge, along with key experience in law and procedure, helps him understand cases and present the best possible defense.

Forensic evidence is incredibly important in criminal cases, and Matthew Bangerter’s scientific background gives him an edge when evaluating forensic evidence involved in a criminal case. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in biology and studied molecular genetics and computer science in graduate school. He is one of very few criminal defense attorneys who has actually cloned his own DNA in a lab, so he is well-versed in the scientific evidence involved in various criminals cases.

As a former Assistant Prosecutor in Lake County, Ohio, Matthew Bangerter has experience on both sides of the courtroom. He is also a member of the Ohio Bar Association, Lake County Bar Association, Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association, Cuyahoga Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, and the Board of Directors of the Ohio Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Matthew Bangerter takes his profession as a Northeast Ohio criminal defense lawyer seriously and ensures that he is up to date with the latest case law and trial strategies.

Get The Legal Help You Need From An Experienced Ohio Criminal Defense Lawyer

As a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney, Matthew Bangerter understands the importance of a close examination of the evidence and circumstances surrounding your charge. He will closely examine the circumstances surrounding your charges to determine whether everything was handled in the correct manner.

Do not make the mistake of assuming you can represent yourself or explain your side of a complex situation and avoid conviction. You have the constitutional right to legal counsel when you are arrested for any crime, and it is vital that you take full advantage of this right. As soon as you are placed under arrest, anything you say to the police could be used against you, so it is vital to remain silent until you can speak with an experienced defense attorney.

A Cleveland criminal defense lawyer can immediately begin reviewing the circumstances of your arrest and booking to ensure that the police followed all required procedures and respected your rights. They can examine the evidence placed against you, help you prove an alibi if you have been wrongfully accused, or assist you in building the strongest possible defense in their efforts to help you avoid conviction or, if necessary, mitigate the penalties you face in sentencing.

Types of Criminal Cases We Handle

When you are searching for a Cleveland criminal defense lawyer to represent you, it is vital to assess not only a potential attorney’s overall experience with criminal law but also their proven track record of successfully handling cases similar to yours. While every case is unique, it is still crucial to work with an attorney who has represented clients who have faced charges similar to those you currently face. Our firm has successfully defended clients charged with:

  • Driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs, which is one of the most common criminal offenses in the Cleveland area. Police must follow specific rules for conducting traffic stops for suspected DUI and confirming a suspect’s intoxication. Penalties for DUI conviction can include fines, jail time, driver’s license suspension, and additional penalties assigned at the discretion of the court.
  • Drug offenses. Possession, possession with intent to sell, and trafficking are just a few of the different types of drug offenses you could face if you have been arrested while in possession of a controlled substance. The penalties for drug-related offenses typically vary based on the type and quantity of the drug.
  • Assault and crimes of violence. Attempting or threatening to harm another person while possessing the means to make good on the threat qualifies as assault, while actually making physical contact constitutes battery. Penalties for assault crimes typically depend on the severity of the damage done to the victim and whether the defendant used any type of weapon in the incident.
  • Sex crimes. Any type of sexual misconduct can potentially lead to severe penalties in Cleveland. State prosecutors tend to pursue convictions in these cases very aggressively, and the penalties for conviction can include heavy fines, restitution to the victim, incarceration, and mandatory registration as a sex offender. This status can negatively impact the defendant’s life in many ways for years to come.
  • Federal crimes. If you have been arrested by any federal law enforcement agency, your case will unfold in the federal criminal court system rather than state criminal court. This type of case will typically involve very serious charges, and the defendant could be incarcerated in federal prison if they are found guilty. It is essential to find a defense lawyer who has proven experience with federal criminal court procedures.

It is possible for a defendant to face multiple charges depending on the circumstances of their arrest and whether any law enforcement agencies have built a case before moving to arrest the defendant. The defendant could face a wide range of penalties, and some offenses may be tried as misdemeanors or felonies based on the severity of the offenses. Ultimately, no matter what charges you face, you need trustworthy defense counsel on your side.

Know Your Rights

Every American citizen has the Fifth Amendment right to remain silent once they are placed under arrest. Do not assume that remaining silent will be interpreted as an admission of guilt, even if you know you have done nothing wrong. Once you are informed that you are being arrested, remain silent and comply with the arresting officers’ instructions. Do not answer any questions, sign any statements, or attempt to explain your side of the situation.

You also have the Sixth Amendment right to legal counsel. Do not underestimate the value of having an experienced defense attorney on your side as your case unfolds. Your Cleveland criminal defense lawyer will have the experience necessary to identify the defenses that might be available to you that you may have overlooked on your own. It’s vital to secure defense counsel as quickly as possible after an arrest.

Your attorney will be able to identify whether the arresting officers violated your constitutional rights or if they breached the rules of due process. For example, your case may be dismissed on procedural grounds if the police lacked probable cause to conduct your arrest in the first place, if they did not read your Miranda rights, or if other serious procedural missteps occurred.

What to Expect From Your Criminal Defense Attorney

In every criminal case, the prosecution attempts to prove a defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and it is the defense attorney’s mission to prevent them from meeting this burden of proof and/or proving their client’s innocence. Your Cleveland criminal defense lawyer can attack the prosecutor’s evidence, present contradictory evidence that supports your side of the case, and highlight procedural mistakes made by the police and prosecution.

If you did break the law, your situation is not entirely hopeless. A good defense attorney may be able to negotiate a plea agreement with the prosecution under certain conditions. For example, the prosecutor may agree to a lighter penalty, suspended sentence, or even reduced charges in exchange for your guilty plea. Your attorney can advise you as to whether this type of arrangement would suit your interests.

The Fortress Law Group has years of experience representing defendants in all types of cases, and we are ready to leverage this experience for you in your impending case. It is vital that you reach out to our team as quickly as possible after an arrest for any crime so we can allocate maximum time and attention to building your defense. Our goal is to help you approach your case with confidence and reach the optimal outcome of the difficult proceedings ahead.

How Can I Know If I Am Being Investigated For A Crime?

If you’re wondering if you’re under investigation, here’s what you should know. How can I know if I am being investigated for a crime? Usually, the police will call or visit and ask you questions because people do make statements and incriminate themselves or even provide a confession. That is the easiest way for the police to close a case. They will call you or show up at your home and ask to speak to you, or ask you to come in for an interview with a detective and that is how you will find out that you are a suspect in whatever crime they are investigating.

In some undercover cases they are working you may not know ahead of time; everything will be done via surveillance and your indictment may be a secret until you get arrested or find out there is a warrant out for your arrest. Those cases are rare most of the time you will know because the police will ask you about it.

Am I Obligated To Meet With The Police And Answer Their Questions?

You are never obligated to meet with police, you always have the right to remain silent, so you should always speak to a lawyer first. It is never a good idea to speak to the police without getting some sort of legal advice or having an attorney with you. While the idea of being nice and meeting up with them sounds good and shows you want to cooperate and to be helpful be the good guy, speaking to the police usually will make your case more difficult for your attorney. Since you are not obligated to meet with the police, always speak with a lawyer first.

Are Police Allowed To Lie To A Suspect During Investigation Or Questioning?

The Ohio Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court have both said that police are allowed to lie, and they will as part of their investigation technique. They will tell you that they know more than they do, or they will tell you that your buddy is in the next room selling you out so you may as well talk, or they will tell you they can get you a deal, or things will go better for you if you just talk now. Typically none of those things are true. They can tell you whatever they want to try to get a confession out of you or to get you to incriminate yourself.

On the flip side, you cannot lie to them. If you lie to police, that can bring more serious consequences. You have the right to remain silent and it is what you should do. If you do choose to speak and you lie to the police, you could be facing additional criminal charges.

What Are the Differences Between Misdemeanor and Felony Charges?

In simple terms, misdemeanors are less serious crimes, while felonies are the more serious. The stiffest penalties for misdemeanors are for a first degree misdemeanor, which is up to six months in jail. Felonies can lead to prison time, which is somewhat different from jail. The minimum prison sentence for the lowest level felony is six months, but penalties for serious felonies can be as much as life in prison.

Being charged with a felony does not mean you will get prison time. You can receive smaller amounts of jail time or probation or something else. However, felony charges are the level at which prison time starts to become a possibility.

How Long Do Criminal Cases Typically Take To Resolve?

The length of time it takes varies by case. You do have the right to a speedy trial under both Ohio law and the US constitution, which means the state must put you on trial within a certain period of time and not just keep you in jail awaiting trial for years. Sometimes, there are news stories in which that happens for whatever reason, but it is not supposed to. You can waive that time limit to give yourself more time to investigate the case and work out a resolution. For felony cases, unless you waive that limit, your trial must occur within two hundred and seventy days from the date of your arrest.

That can be pushed back by a defense motion or if it is waived, which can make it go longer. A typical criminal case can take anywhere from a few months to a year.

How Do I Know If I’m Under Criminal Investigation?

Can you check if police are investigating you? How Do I Know if I’m Under Criminal Investigation? Typically, unless it’s an undercover operation, the police will contact you and ask you to speak with them. They may tell you that it’s in your best interest to talk to them. They may tell you they already know what you have to say, they just want to confirm what they know. They may tell you it will go better for you if you talk with them. Keep one very important thing in mind:

The police are allowed to lie to you!

The Ohio and United States Supreme Courts have said so.  You can’t lie to them – you can remain silent, but cannot lie – but they can lie to you to try to get you to confess some damaging detail.

If you speak with them voluntarily, are free to leave and aren’t under arrest, any rights you have under Miranda don’t apply.  Whether they read you your rights or not, anything you say in a voluntary situation can be used against you and it is very difficult for an attorney to undo that damage.

Contact an attorney before speaking with the police!

If it’s really necessary to speak with the police, an attorney can talk for you or set up a meeting.  An attorney can also start an investigation on your behalf.

How Long Will My Case Take?

How long will my case take? It depends. The process of taking a case from arrest through trial can take anywhere from a few months to a year or more, depending on the complexity of the case.

All criminal defendants are entitled to the right to a speedy trial, which also affects how long a court case can take. This is mandated by the Sixth Amendment to the US Constitution.  For felonies, a defendant must be brought to trial within 270 days.  Incarcerated defendants count every day incarcerated on that same case as three days – so if a felony defendant spends the entire time before trial in jail, he must have his trial within 90 days.  In the rare case where the government misses this deadline, the case will be completely dismissed forever.

However, there are many things that can slow that down.  In some cases, the defendant may want to waive that right.  The attorney may need more time to investigate a witness or some new evidence, or the defendant may want more time to get a mental health evaluation.  There are many good strategic reasons to waive speedy trial rights.  Unfortunately, many attorneys are in the habit of always waiving speedy trial rights for no benefit to, and sometimes to the disadvantage of, their clients.  Any time a person waives a constitutional right, there should be some benefit gained in exchange.

Besides a waiver, anything that the defense team does that needs time will delay, or “toll,” the speedy trial deadline.  For example, filing what is known as a “motion to suppress evidence” delays the deadline by the amount of time it takes for the court to hear and rule on that motion.  In some cases, defense counsel may ask for a “continuance” to postpone a court date, which will also toll speedy trial time.

What Are Some Alternatives To Incarceration In Ohio?

What Are Some Alternatives To Incarceration In Ohio? There are many alternatives to incarceration, depending on the case, such as community service, house arrest – although typically, if a person gets house arrest, it will be for a bit longer than they would have spent in jail. Some people are placed on probation without jail time. Many first offenders receive something called diversion, in which the person admits to committing a crime, performs some community service, does some counseling, mental health assessment or some classes and if they complete all those requirements successfully, the case will be dismissed. The same is true with drug treatment; for a drug related case in which the person charged has never been in trouble before, there are times when we can work out some sort of treatment program that can result in the charge being dismissed if the person completes it successfully.

Can You Help People With An Expungement Or A Sealing?

In Ohio, you can have up to two misdemeanors sealed or one felony plus one misdemeanor sealed. There are some exceptions to that because certain crimes can never be sealed, such as violent felonies, sex crimes and OVIs, other than those I can and do help quite a few clients get their records sealed.

Having a record sealed is not the same as having it expunged. Technically, expungement means that the record is actually destroyed. Sealing a record just means it is placed under a seal, so that most people cannot get to it. In Ohio, when a record is sealed, most people will not be able to see it, but by law certain professions can always see your sealed records. If you plan to join the FBI, A Medical professional, a school teacher, for example would be an issue. Also, most professional licensing boards will be able to access all sealed record.

How Hard Is It To Get An Arrest Or A Conviction Sealed Or Expunged?

There is an initial application that I create and file with the court, in which I will include a pitch as to why you have moved on with your life. That you are doing better in the community, why this will never happen again and why you should be able to move on without this record holding you back. The courts will do their own background check to make sure you are eligible and they will speak to the probation department to get some sort of recommendation. The prosecutor will also have a chance to object. Then we get a court date, which I instruct my clients to treat as a job interview, except that, instead of the judge asking why they should hire you, they will ask why they should seal this record. The judge will ask about what you have been doing with your life, how you have improved, how you have shown that you are rehabilitated. That might be the hardest part for the client but overall, it is not a complex process.

For a misdemeanor, you cannot get your record sealed until a year after your last involvement with the court, which means a year after getting off probation, paying all fines and finishing all your community service. For a felony, it is three years from that time.

How Do People Get Back On Their Feet?

The ability to get back on their feet often requires a person to be engaged with some kind of treatment program or if there is a mental health issue in a case, staying engaged with the mental health programming, using the tools those treatment programs provide to stay on track, and staying away from situations. Building a support network of family and friends is a huge indicator of future success after your case is over. Setting yourself up to succeed by making the right choices and surrounding yourself with the right people and that sort of thing is the best way to move forward.

Is There A Look-Back Period Where A Second Offense Might Be Considered A First?

Look-back periods are typically used to enhance an offense, for example, for an OVI, which is typically a first degree misdemeanor with a minimum of three days in jail, there is a six-year look back period. If you have a prior in six years, then the minimum now becomes five days in jail. There is also a look-back period of twenty years and a lifetime look-back period.

Getting additional OVIs within those specific time windows elevates the seriousness of the charge. As far as when a second offense is considered to be a first, the court will always look at your previous offenses. They are one of the entities that can look at a sealed record, so if you had the first one sealed and you get another criminal charge, the court will know and they will likely take that into account if your case gets to the point of sentencing.

For more information on Process of Indictment and alternatives to incarceration, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you’re seeking by calling (440) 306-3205 today.

What Are The Most Common Criminal Cases You Handle?

Most common criminal cases are drug related. Drugs are always a big problem. Even if the charges are not drug-related, there are often drugs involved. Whether it is a shoplifting case or a robbery case, for example if someone robs a bank, it is frequently because they are trying to feed a heroin addiction. Violent crimes are often drug or alcohol driven. The majority of cases have some kind of drug component to them.

How Do People Unintentionally Incriminate Themselves In A Criminal Case?

The biggest way is by making a statement to the police. I always advocate talking to a lawyer before you speak to the police, whether you are guilty or innocent. People will go in and for whatever reason they want to help or they believe they should talk because they think cooperating will make things better in the long run. They end up spilling their whole story to the police, which makes it much more difficult for me to do my job.

What is the Impact of Social Media on Most common criminal cases?

I have had cases in which people are accused of, for example, drug possession, and they put a picture of themselves smoking marijuana on their Facebook page or they will be accused of a drag racing and their whole Facebook profile is all about fast cars and street racing. Sometime they will post pictures of themselves with a big pile of money trying to make it look as if they are living the high life.  I look at all of my clients on Facebook to see what is on there, and you should know the prosecutors and police are doing the same.

How Do People Generally React to Being Arrested For a Crime?

It is a mixture of fear and embarrassment being charged with a crime is a scary, life-changing experience, especially if they have never been in trouble before. Even for a minor case, like someone who shoplifts a candy bar. Down the road you may apply for a job and when they run a background check, it will not say you stole a candy bar, it will say you committed theft.  It will affect your job search as long as it is on your record because no one wants to hire a thief. Even a minor case like that will follow you around for possibly the rest of your life.

It can affect a vacation plan. For example, if you get an OVI or DUI, you will have a hard time getting into Canada. So if you plan a family vacation to Niagara Falls and get an OVI, you will end up ruining that vacation.

The other issue is the embarrassment when your friends and family see what you are dealing with. If it happens to be in the newspaper or if someone happens to look at the courts website there can be some harm to a person’s reputation.

In Ohio, drunk driving is called “OVI” – operating a vehicle while intoxicated – but many people call it DUI or DWI. Even with OVIs a lot of times you can get the charge reduced to what is called a physical control, which is not a driving offense; it just says you were in control of a car, but not necessarily driving it while under the influence of alcohol. Even that can affect entry into Canada, or it can affect your insurance, as well as any job for which alcohol use would raise the red flag.

How and When Do Miranda Rights Come Into Play in a Criminal Case?

The Miranda warnings are supposed to be given when a person is taken into custody, before the police ask any questions. What confuses people is that the courts have said, if you are sitting in the front seat of a police car or if you are pulled over for suspicion of drunk driving, you are not technically in custody. We all know what will happen if you just get back in your car and drive away, so in some sense you are in custody, but the courts do not see it that way.

Unless you are being arrested or you are actually in custody, police do not have to read you those warnings.  If you are in custody and they never read them to you, it does not mean your case will be thrown out. It just may mean that whatever you said after that does not get to come into evidence. However, if there is any other evidence in the case and there often is, they can still proceed with your case, just without any specific admissions you made if they asked you questions after your arrest.

For more information on Common Criminal Cases, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you’re seeking by calling (440) 306-3205 today.

What Are The Top Misconceptions About A Criminal Arrest?

There are two main top misconceptions about a criminal arrest; one is when people think they can help themselves out by explaining to the police what really happened, so they will make a statement and hurt themselves in some way by doing so. If they did nothing, they believe police are there to help them but if the police suspect a person, they are not motivated to help that person, rather they are motivated to solve the case. If the person did do something, they think a good story or throwing someone else under the bus will help, but talking to police at all usually ends up hurting them. People tend to think cooperation is the best way to get out of trouble, but that is not the case at all.

The other misconception about arrest is that the person should just go in and plead guilty right away and just throw themselves on the mercy of the court. If the person is innocent and did not do anything, obviously they should not go in and do that, just to try to reduce the damage. Even if the person did commit a crime it is always better to allow an attorney to negotiate with a prosecutor and get some benefit from that guilty plea. There is never a benefit to just pleading guilty and taking whatever punishment the court metes out.

Even if you do not want to fight the case some people do want to accept responsibility, take punishment and move on with their lives. You should still want to investigate the case and take the opportunity to try to better your situation and get the best outcome, because this will stick with you for a very long time. Unless you can get your records sealed, there will be lasting consequences.

Of course, if you do want to fight the case and you are not guilty, there is certainly no reason to just roll over and accept what they give you. You do not have to give up just because you are put in the court system and the big government machine is after you. You need to fight that as much as you can.

How Public is a Criminal Arrest in Ohio?

Once you are arrested and charged, if someone runs a background check, that will show up, although it will not show up as a conviction until the case is over. Almost all courts put their records online now, so if a nosy neighbor, family member or friend happens to go to that court website and look up your name, the status of the ongoing case will be there for them to see. Most people do not typically go to the court website and search for random people, but it is there if they do so.

We also do not have control of media coverage, so if yours is a high profile case, you may be on the news or in the newspaper. Some towns publish all OVI arrests. Sometimes, you will see Craigslist prostitution stings and the city will post the names of everyone they picked up in the newspaper, so it is highly likely.

Are the Courts Lenient Towards Family Men with Clean Prior Records?

That may come into play when you are in front of a judge for sentencing. In fact, it is absolutely important. Someone with a rap sheet a mile long will receive a worse sentence than someone who has never been in trouble before, is dressed well, polite to the judge and spends their spare time rescuing puppies. How you are involved with your community and how you can show you are a good person will help you with that.

One of the reasons people get a tough sentence is because the courts want to make sure that it does not happen again. If you can show the court that you are not the type of person who will do something like that again. That it is an aberration, a fluke and you are a really a good person, that will help you quite a bit.


Q: What Defenses Can I Use in My Criminal Case?

A: The defenses you can use in your criminal case will depend on the nature of the charges against you. For example, if you were charged with assault but acted in self-defense, you would need to prove that you were only trying to defend yourself. If you are charged with DUI but were not intoxicated, your most viable defenses may be proving that the arrest was unlawful or that your chemical test was not performed correctly.

Q: What Is the Standard of Proof in a Criminal Case?

Q: When Should I Contact a Cleveland Criminal Defense Lawyer?

Q: What Should I Do if I Have Been Wrongfully Arrested?

Q: What Will It Cost to Hire a Cleveland Criminal Defense Lawyer?

Contact Cleveland Criminal Defense Lawyer

Discussing criminal allegations can be difficult, but Matthew Bangerter handles every consultation and case without judgment. If you are facing criminal charges, don’t hesitate, contact Matthew Bangerter for a consultation today or call (440) 306-3205 to start planning your defense.