What To Do if You Are Arrested or Under Criminal Investigation
If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges or a criminal investigation, you need to be very careful and smart in how you conduct yourself. Your freedom and life may be on the line. It is in times like these that the advice of experienced counsel should be sought out and followed. The police and prosecutors have tremendous resources and are not your side.
Interacting with the legal system can be intimidating and is full of potential traps. Some things to consider:
1. Do not make statements to police without your lawyer present
Police interrogations are not a fair fight. US law provides you the 5th Amendment right to not self incriminate. If a person in custody invokes their right to counsel, the police must stop questioning, and may not resume the interrogation, until the defendant has their attorney present. Only fools try to talk their way out of criminal charges without a lawyer present.
Police are not your friends. They will not help you and may be diligently working to build a case against you. There is a reason police recite your Miranda Rights and tell you “everything you say can and will be used against you.” It is the absolute truth.
2. Do not speak with anyone about your case in jail, including jail phone calls
One of the most common ways people get themselves in trouble is by talking about their case on the phone in jail or telling other inmates. You cannot trust anyone in jails. You should never speak about your case on a jail call to anyone. Not even in a foreign language. You don't have a right to privacy in jail and whatever language you speak, someone at the DA's office speaks it or can get it translated. And anything you say to anyone can be used against you.
3. Do not consent to any search of your home or vehicle, unless ordered by a search warrant
You have a legitimate expectation of privacy on your property as defined under the Fourth Amendment and in well established court opinions. If law enforcement wants to enter your property to look for evidence to use in court, they generally have to obtain a search warrant from a judge in order to do so.
4. Do not appear in court by yourself or sign anything without consulting a criminal defense lawyer
No matter how well educated or smart you are, the criminal justice system makes it nearly impossible to do a competent job of representing yourself. Only specialists who are experienced in the system, rules of evidence and assessing all the factors that come up can provide the representation needed to ensure fair justice is done.
5. Do not assume your case is hopeless or be intimidated by a prosecutor into pleading guilty
There are many legal defenses to criminal charges and you should never underestimate the ability of a skilled criminal defense lawyer to successfully fight a case or negotiate a much more favorable plea deal and outcome.
Criminal law is very complex and it's interpretation and practice can vary dramatically by court, prosecutor and the specific circumstances of each unique case. There are many potential defense strategies and countless ways that police and investigators can make mistakes that a skilled defense attorney can use to justify dismissal or reduced charges.
6. Do not interview witnesses or try to investigate your case yourself
This can backfire or hurt your case and taint a key witness. Consult your lawyer and follow their advice on how to proceed and when to use an investigator. Give your attorney the witness list and let them decide whether and how to interview them.
7. Ask your lawyer about alternative sentencing options when appropriate
Alternative sentencing programs are based on the belief that rehab is a more effective solution for offenders than prison. If your case cannot be dismissed or defeated, they can provide attractive alternatives to jail time. We have relationships with many alternative sentencing options that can be proposed to the prosecutor and judge if appropriate. Some of the most common alternative sentencing options include:
-- Therapy treatments
-- House arrest or electronic monitoring
-- Community service
-- Alcoholics anonymous or narcotics anonymous programs
-- Out-patient or residential rehabilitation programs (alcohol or drug)
-- Supervised or unsupervised probation
-- Behavioral management programs for anger or impulse control issues
-- PC-1000 & proposition 36 drug diversion programs
8. Hire a qualified criminal defense lawyer asap
When your freedom, personal & professional life are on the line, it is critical to hire a skilled criminal defense lawyer to intervene fast and early to aggressively defend your case and work on trying to get the case dropped before it even goes to court.
Choose an attorney you feel comfortable with that is very knowledgeable about criminal defense. The attorney should be honest and not give you false hopes or exaggerated claims of success. Given the serious consequences of convictions, a highly skilled criminal defense lawyer can be the most important investment you make in your life.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tsion Chudnovsky
Tsion Chudnovsky is the founder of Chudnovsky Law, a California law firm practicing criminal defense, immigration, DUI defense & personal injury law from offices in Los Angeles, Santa Monica & Newport Beach.
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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.