Hiring a criminal law attorney is a case where it's likely better to get one a little too soon than a little too late. If you're not sure about when it's worth talking with a criminal defense attorney, consider these four potential scenarios.
You've Been Arrested
Okay, this is the easy answer. In many cases, there isn't much time between when an alleged criminal act occurred and when someone is charged. For example, anyone who gets into a fistfight at a bar probably wasn't planning to need counsel when they went out that night. However, once the police have arrested you, it's time to invoke your right to stay silent and your right to have a criminal law attorney present during questioning.
A criminal defense attorney can help you review what happened before you speak with the cops. Likewise, they can tell you whether the police might have gone overboard with a question. If the case goes to a hearing before a judge, the lawyer may also be able to argue why the judge should drop the charges.
Contact with the Police
Not all criminal cases unfold so swiftly. Sometimes the cops start asking around about an incident. Even if it seems like they're not interested in you as a suspect, it's wise to hire a criminal law attorney. Some folks start out as witnesses, but the police might decide that their proximity to a case makes them interesting as potential suspects. Retaining a lawyer's services will serve as a hedge against any further inquiries the police might launch.
This one is a little tricky because a prosecutor can secretly impanel a grand jury. However, if you know or suspect that a grand jury has been formed in a matter close to or directly involving you, hire a criminal law attorney. A lawyer can follow the events and give you some idea of what the prosecution is looking for. If the state confronts you with evidentiary requests, your attorney can help you decide how to respond.
Facing the court is one thing, but the court of public opinion sometimes gets the first say. Even if the police don't seem to yet be interested in allegations, there are times where rumors are bad enough to justify retaining counsel. For example, if there's someone accusing you of sexual assault, it may be best to discuss the claims with a criminal law attorney. If the rumors lead to an investigation, you'll be out in front of the matter.
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