Criminal charges result from a law enforcement officer observing an individual in the act of a crime, such as in the case of a person driving while intoxicated, or as a result of an investigation into an alleged crime. People often make the mistake of believing that an attorney is not necessary during the investigation stage of a prosecution. If you find yourself under investigation in California, don’t make that mistake. Often, you do need a lawyer before you are charged.
A police investigation may commence under a wide variety of circumstances. Sometimes a victim contacts the police and files a report that warrants an investigation. In other cases, the police receive a “tip” from an informant or from another defendant about ongoing criminal activity that spurs an investigation. Regardless of how an investigation begins, if it leads to your doorstep you have cause for concern – even if you are 100 percent innocent. Unfortunately, most people assume that if they have done nothing wrong they don’t need an attorney. Many even think that refusing to cooperate without an attorney makes them look guilty. This often leads people to talk to the police in an effort to “explain” or “clear the air”.
Law enforcement officers will frequently use these common beliefs to get people to talk when they might otherwise not. The police may say things like “If you have nothing to hide then you have no reason to need an attorney” or “we just want to ask a few questions that can help eliminate you as a suspect”. The rule of thumb should always be to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney the moment law enforcement contacts you as part of an investigation. Here are some reasons why:
- Remember that the job of a law enforcement officer is to investigate a crime. They will try to put you at ease to get you to talk – that’s their job.
- Anything you say to a law enforcement officer can be used against you down the road.
- People often inadvertently say something that makes them look guilty – even if they are not guilty of anything.
- You have a right to an attorney but you must assert that right.
- The police are not required to advise you of your right to an attorney while they are still investigating a crime; however, that does not mean you don’t need one.
- Asserting your right to an attorney doesn’t make you look guilty—it makes you look smart.
- Involving an attorney early on in the process can actually result in “clearing things up”.
- If you are actually guilty of something, contacting an attorney early gives your attorney a much better chance of presenting the best defense possible if you are ultimately charged with a crime.
The bottom line is that it is never too early to contact a criminal defense attorney if you are being questioned in an investigation or you even suspect that you may become involved in one down the road.