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Gulfport Mississippi Legal Blog

What is a plea bargain?

Plea bargains are commonly used throughout the criminal justice system which is why it is important for individuals who have been accused of crimes to understand what they are. Most individuals are familiar with the term plea bargain but may wonder exactly what that means. In general, plea bargains refer to agreements accused individuals make with the prosecution which may involve pleading guilty to certain charges in exchange for concessions the prosecution may make related to penalties or the charges they are facing.

While the prosecution may agree to reduce the accused individual's punishment, or agree to recommend a reduced sentence to the judge, in exchange for a plea bargain, the prosecution may also reduce the number of charges or the severity of charges the accused individual is facing. Because a significant number of criminal cases end in plea bargains, it is a necessary part of the criminal justice process for accused individuals to understand.

The basics of the military divorce process

The divorce process can be a challenging time for any couple but a military divorce can include some unique challenges civilian couples may not face when divorcing. Special rules and requirements, and both state and federal laws, impact military divorces which is why it is helpful for divorcing military couples to understand the military divorce process.

Differences between the military divorce process and civilian divorce process can include residency and filing requirements, service of process and the division of military pensions. Both federal and state laws impact a military divorce so it is important to understand both. Federal laws can have an impact on where divorcing military couples divorce and how military pensions are divided, while state laws can impact concerns such as alimony.

Filing for Mississippi Chapter 7 bankruptcy won't cost your home

It only takes a few rough weeks or a single accident to put the average American in financial trouble. Whether it's a car accident that results in medical bills and loss of a job or a sudden lay-off at work, when something happens to you financially, the problems can quickly grow out of control.

After you miss a payment on a line of credit, for example, you'll get hit with fees, as well as potentially needing to pay a higher penalty interest rate on your balance. Soon enough, you can't make the minimum payments and creditors start calling. If you're considering Chapter 7 bankruptcy to end collection attempts and get a fresh start, you're probably wondering if you'll lose your house. After all, the bank often liquidate certain assets to repay creditors.

Mississippi grand jury proceedings and preliminary hearings

As discussed in a previous blog post, the Fifth Amendment includes the right to a grand jury. Grand juries decide whether criminal charges should be brought against the defendant based on evidence presented by the prosecutor. While all states have provisions allowing for grand juries, some courts use preliminary hearings to determine whether there is probable cause. In Mississippi, grand jury hearings are held for defendants charged with a felony.

Grand jury proceedings are held in private to encourage witnesses to present evidence without fear of retaliation and to protect the defendant's reputation in the event he is not indicted. The traditional rules of evidence do not apply, and the proceedings are more relaxed than typical court proceedings, allowing jurors to consider all available evidence. Preliminary hearings are also held to discern whether there is probable cause, however that determination is made by a judge, not a jury.

Fifth Amendment protections against self-incrimination

A previous blog post discussed Double Jeopardy clause of the Fifth Amendment, which applies to defendants in criminal proceedings. It protects innocent persons from successive prosecutions and cumulative punishments for the same crime. There are other Fifth Amendment protections for those facing the possibility of criminal conviction, such as the right to a grand jury.

The right to a grand jury is extended to suspects facing a criminal charge. Grand juries, typically consisting of 23 people, will assist the prosecutor in deciding whether to bring formal criminal charges against the suspect. Grand jury proceedings are not open to the public and the grand jury members may convene for one month up to a year.

Fifth Amendment protections against self-incrimination

A previous blog post discussed the self-incrimination clause of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It entitles suspects and defendants to be informed of their rights to remain silent and to have an attorney present during interrogations. The right must be clearly invoked and re-invoked after any breaks in interrogation to be effective in halting all questioning. Defendants' rights against self-incrimination extends to criminal trials as well; they may choose not to testify.

There are many other rights granted under the Fifth Amendment, including that of double jeopardy.

Fifth Amendment protections against self-incrimination

The Fifth Amendment to the U.S Constitution details the rights of the accused. Many people have heard of "pleading the Fifth", which refers to the self-incrimination clause of the Fifth Amendment. In the historic case of Miranda vs. Arizona, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that upon being taken into police custody and before being questioned, everyone must be informed of their Fifth Amendment rights to remain silent and to have an attorney present during their interrogation.

As a result of Miranda, the accused must be informed that they have the right to remain silent, that anything they say can and will be used against them in a court of law, that they have the right to an attorney and that, if they cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for them. The right to remain silent must be clearly invoked by a suspect during an interrogation or a defendant during legal proceedings. This right must be unequivocally invoked therefore, merely remaining silent may not be enough to stop an interrogation.

Bankruptcy: Points to consider before you file

The decision to file for bankruptcy can change your life. When you contemplating this route, weigh all the reasons why you should and shouldn't file for this financial protection.

Often, people are so overwhelmed by bills rolling in that they don't realize how much the desire to get out of debt is pushing their decision. If you are considering filing for bankruptcy, here are some questions to ask yourself:

Can my bankruptcy discharge be revoked?

Mississippians struggling with debt may be able to obtain a fresh financial start by filing for either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Under Chapter 7, debtors must liquidate all non-exempt property to pay off their creditors whereas under Chapter 13, debtors may keep all their property in exchange for using their disposable income to pay off their creditors according to a long-term payment plan. Once the bankruptcy proceedings are complete, the debt is discharged and the debtor is no longer liable for those debts.

The court will typically grant an automatic discharge which prevents creditors from taking collection action against the debtor (except for certain debts such as child support, alimony and student loans). However, certain situations may warrant a revocation of the discharge in both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 cases. An interested party, such as the trustee or a creditor, may request that the bankruptcy court revoke a discharge even after the case has been closed; these requests must generally be requested within one year of the discharge being granted.

Reaffirming debt under Chapter 7

Mississippi debtors may decide to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in order to get a fresh financial start. Those approved for Chapter 7 bankruptcy will be able to stop wage garnishment and other collection activities during the bankruptcy process and will generally be able to discharge their debts in exchange for the liquidation of their non-exempt property. In certain cases, debtors may decide to reaffirm a debt; there are several Bankruptcy Code requirements for doing so.

Some creditors may still be able to seize property even after a discharge is granted. Debtors who wish to keep certain property may decide to reaffirm their debt for that property. By reaffirming the debt, the debtor agrees to remain liable for the amount owed and the creditor allows them to keep it in exchange for their agreement to make payments on the property.

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