Return to Practice Areas

Criminal Defense Attorneys

On this page

Our criminal defense attorneys are led by Patrick Benca and Jessica Duncan Johnston. Call our criminal defense lawyers today for a free consultation at 501-954-8000, or submit an inquiry via our contact form.

The Role Of A Criminal Defense Lawyer

Freedom is the central tenet of all civil liberties vested in the citizens of our country. If you are arrested and charged with a crime then your basic civil rights and freedoms are in jeopardy. That is why it is important to have an experienced and effective criminal defense attorney on your side who will protect your rights and ensure your right to a fair trial. The Arkansas criminal defense lawyers at McDaniel, Wolff & Benca regularly handle the most complex, high-profile criminal cases of any kind or nature. Whether your case involves allegations of white collar or, we stand ready to assist you with your criminal defense.

Our criminal defense attorneys, Patrick Benca, Jessica Duncan Johnston, and Lauren Collins have extensive experience in successfully defending numerous criminal charges including domestic violence accusations, drug charges, allegations of driving while intoxicated, white collar crimes such fraud and embezzlement, homicide, other violent crimes such as assault and battery, and much more. We are prepared to provide effective and high-quality representation in courts throughout Arkansas.

Once you have retained us, your attorney will begin to immediately investigate the facts of your case and prepare a defense. We understand that questions often arise throughout the legal process, and our attorneys ensure that they are accessible to clients with questions. Our firm’s goal is to aggressively defend your rights while keeping you informed throughout the process about what is happening, what to expect, and what your options are.

Misdemeanor and Felony Expungement

If you have a criminal record including an arrest or conviction, it can create serious obstacles for your ability to secure loans or even qualify for jobs. It is possible to expunge your criminal record or arrest record and remove these obstacles. 

Expungement is the legal process of sealing arrest and conviction records for misdemeanors and felonies. And a qualified criminal defense attorney can help you submit a petition for expungement to seal your criminal history record. 

Sealing your court records will allow you to qualify for more jobs, apply for more colleges, and improve your loan opportunities. You will be able to legally deny or fail to acknowledge your arrest record to potential employers or landlords, for example. And expunging your record will protect your privacy by keeping your record sealed from the public.

Qualification for misdemeanor and felony expungement is determined by multiple factors:

  • Completion of sentence;
  • Fines, court costs, restitution paid;
  • Diversion or rehabilitation programs in some cases;
  • No crimes committed for disqualifying charges; 
  • Severity of criminal record; and
  • Severity of crime committed.

Drug Charges

Drug possession, manufacturing, delivery, trafficking, or cultivation charges for controlled substances or illegal drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine can come with heavy fines; prison or jail time; and criminal charges. Even a drug paraphernalia charge can come with a maximum of 6 years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000 as a class D felony.

If you’ve been charged with drug offenses then you need experienced drug charge lawyers to ensure the best possible outcome for your case. Attorneys can help with the possibility of an alternative sentence for first-time drug offenders, minimize jail time or plea bargain for dismissal or reduction of your charges, identify mitigating factors for sentencing, and help you navigate the judicial process.

Types of Drug Charges and Penalties

Arkansas state law and federal law categorizes a serious offense as a felony and a less serious offense as a misdemeanor. Within those categories, offenses are classified from Class A, among the most serious, to Class D. And, in the case of felonies, Class Y is the most serious of charges.

A Class Y felony, such as trafficking 200 grams or more of a controlled substance, comes with 10 to 40 years or life in prison. Whereas an offense such as possession of less than 4 ounces of marijuana without a medical marijuana ID card from the state of Arkansas is a Class A misdemeanor and carries a maximum $10,000 fine and a maximum prison sentence of 6 years.

Refer to the section at the bottom of this page for all classifications and penalties.

Classification of Controlled Substances

The United State Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) organizes controlled substances based on the risk of harm and potential for abuse.

  • Schedule I: no accepted medical use such as opiates, opiate derivatives (narcotic drugs), hallucinogenic substances
  • Schedule II: have an accepted medical use such as raw opium, synthetic prescription opium, amphetamines, cocaine, etc
  • Schedule III: have an accepted medical use such as LSD and ketamine
  • Schedule IV: have an accepted medical use such as benzodiazepines and tramadol
  • Schedule V: have currently accepted medical use such as pseudoephedrine 
  • Schedule VI: have no acceptable medical use such as salvia divinorum

Sex Crimes

Accusations of sex crimes are serious and can lead to consequences that last longer than the fines and jail or prison time. If you’ve been charged with a sex crime like sexual assault, rape, indecent exposure, sexual battery, or other sex charges then you need the help of a sex crime attorney.

Our experienced sexual assault attorneys can help you avoid harsh penalties such as jail or prison time, fines, probation, parole, or lifetime sex offender registration. As sex crime lawyers, we will give you expert defense for false allegations and expert guidance during the police investigation. We have a proven track record of identifying mitigating factors in a defense such as:

  • Accuser motivation;
  • Evidence suppression;
  • A biased or suggestive interview;
  • Witness misidentification;
  • Consent;
  • If a computer with internet sex crimes is not yours or is used by multiple people; and
  • If a computer was illegally seized.

Sex Offender Registry

Convicted offenders may have to either permanently or temporarily register as a sex offender on the sex offender registry depending on the severity of the crime. The effects of being on the registry are immediate and long-lasting: 

  • Loss of your right to vote
  • Loss of right to own a firearm
  • Risk of losing child custody or visitation rights
  • Loss of employment or eligibility for certain types of employment
  • Loss of privacy
  • Risk of harassment 

It is possible to be removed from the sex offender registry. Eligibility to be removed is determined by meeting the minimum time requirement on the registry, having no additional sexual offenses requiring registration, and satisfying the court that you are not a current or potential threat to public safety.

If you think that you might be eligible to be removed then we can help you.

Traffic Crimes

Traffic crimes can range from reckless driving, to careless and prohibited driving, leaving the scene of an accident, speeding, and driving on a suspended license. Tickets like these can rack up quickly for some drivers. And under Arkansas’s point system for identifying problem drivers, the consequences can become serious.

If you’ve received a ticket for a traffic crime or accrued a high amount of points for your driving record, then you need to work with a traffic attorney. Our traffic ticket lawyers can help you fight the ticket to get it dismissed, reduce the charges, and minimize the legal consequences.

DWI and DUI

In Arkansas, it is unlawful to operate a motor vehicle while intoxicated.  For purposes of alcohol, a Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) charge is when a person with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 is considered to be “intoxicated”. An individual can also be charged with DWI if it is alleged that they are intoxicated by another substance such as opiates or methamphetamine.

A Driving Under the Influence (DUI) charge is when an individual who is underage and is operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol. For underage drivers having a BAC level of 0.02 is considered to be intoxicated. 

If you’ve been charged with either a DWI or DUI then you need the help of our dwi attorneys or dui attorneys. Our lawyers can assist you by minimizing the legal consequences and possibly reducing fines.

Violent Crimes Attorney

Under Arkansas criminal law, if you’ve been convicted of a violent crime then the punishments can range from jail or prison time to the death penalty depending on the severity of the charges. The results of these charges have serious and life-altering repercussions. 

It’s critically important to have an experienced violent crime attorney to minimize legal consequences and build a legal defense around alibi, self-defense, or defense of an innocent third party.

Contact our violent crime lawyers today if you’ve been charged with any of the following violent crimes:

  • Homicide: 
    • Capital murder,
    • Murder in the first degree,
    • Murder in the second degree,
    • Manslaughter, or
    • Negligent homicide;
  • Rape or sexual assault;
  • Aggravated robbery;
  • Aggravated residential burglary;
  • Assault or battery;
  • Domestic abuse;
  • Kidnapping; or
  • Terroristic threatening.

White Collar Crimes

A white collar crime is a type of nonviolent crime that is normally financially motivated and committed by business or government professionals. The charges can be complicated and involve a grand jury investigation if it is a prosecution of federal crimes.

Possible charges can include:

  • Fraud, including mail fraud;
  • Embezzlement;
  • Tax evasion; and
  • Money laundering.

Because of the complicated and often high profile nature of these types of charges, you will need an experienced white collar criminal lawyer. We will guide you during investigation by a government agency or federal prosecutors, keep you informed of possible charges and your legal options, give you legal advice on cooperating with investigators, and build your defense.

Juvenile Crimes

Sometimes juvenile behavior can go from simple misbehaving to crossing over into criminal offenses. Juvenile crimes are committed by minors aged 10 to 18 years old that would be charged as a felony, misdemeanor, or violation if committed by an adult. Instead, these crimes are called juvenile delinquency.

As a result of the special nature of these cases, there is a special juvenile court set up to process these cases. In juvenile court, normally a judge decides on a verdict, not a jury like in an adult court. The emphasis is on the best interests of the child and rehabilitation before they become an adult because children should be kept out of the criminal justice system as much as possible. 

Court hearings are closed to the public and there are no set sentencing guidelines. That means that the juvenile court judge has discretion to determine the punishment to be set for the minor offender.

A juvenile case is often a very sensitive matter and often involves the whole family. It’s important to involve a juvenile attorney as soon as the charges have been made, especially if the case is eligible to petition for expungement or sealing of records.

Our criminal defense lawyers will help you to:

  • Review juvenile’s rights;
  • Influence the Court on penalties ;
  • Potentially avoid long-term legal and financial consequences;
  • Ensure fair treatment by the criminal justice system; and
  • Know your options as a first-time offender.

Clemency

In Arkansas, you can apply for clemency to receive a recommendation to the governor who will make a decision on whether to grant a pardon or a commutation. A pardon is an executive power allowing the governor to forgive charges and end any remaining punishments or penalties. Commutation shortens the sentencing of an offender or lowers the level of punishment, or commutes your sentence. 

Our pardon attorneys will help you complete your clemency application, communicate with State’s attorneys and the Board of Pardons and Paroles for you, guide you through the legal process, and ensure your application is complete and meets all requirements.

Probation Revocation

After you have been convicted of a crime and put on probation, it is possible for your probation to be revoked. A probation revocation hearing happens if you are charged with violating the conditions of your probation. The judge may decide to impose harsher limitations on your probation or to revoke your probation which often means returning to prison. 

The reasons that can trigger a probation revocation hearing include:

  • Not reporting;
  • Failing to pay;
  • New charges; and
  • Positive drug screens.

It’s important for you to contact one of our probation revocation attorneys because of the serious nature of these hearings. We will help mitigate the damage of a potential violation, make your case in front of a judge, prepare testimony before the judge, and explain and help you through the process.

Classification of Misdemeanors and Felonies

  • Class A Misdemeanor
    • Maximum 1 year of jail time 
    • Maximum fine of $2,500
  • Class B Misdemeanor    
    • Maximum 90 days of jail time
    • Maximum fine of $1,000
  • Class C Misdemeanor    
    • Maximum 30 days of jail time
    • Maximum fine of $500
  • Class Y Felony
    • 10 to 40 years in prison,
    • Or life imprisonment
  • Class A Felony
    • 6 to 30 years in prison
    • Maximum fine of $15,000
  • Class B Felony
    • 5 to 20 years in prison
    • Maximum fine of $15,000
  • Class C Felony
    • 3 to 10 years in prison
    • Maximum fine of $10,000
  • Class D Felony
    • Maximum 6 years in prison
    • Maximum fine of $10,000

Our criminal defense attorneys are led by Patrick Benca and Jessica Duncan Johnston. Call our criminal defense lawyers today for a free consultation at 501-954-8000, or submit an inquiry via our contact form.

We're here to serve you.

We have the knowledge and experience necessary to offer our clients the highest quality of legal services.

Recent Firm News

Call Now ButtonCall Us