The Policed Are at My Door. What Should I Do?
First of all, do not answer the door yourself. Either let them knock or have someone else go to the door WITHOUT LETTING THEM IN, and see what they want. Unless they have a warrant for your arrest, they will go away--- for NOW. Use the time you've gained to good advantage. Many people just sit passively waiting to be arrested, perhaps out of fear of expensive lawyer fees. But what will it cost if you go to jail for a year or two? Many lawyers will give you a consultation without charge in order to determine whether they can help you. That has always been my practice. There are many good reasons to make that telephone call. Not only will you know what is ahead of you and what the risks are, but a lawyer can help you avoid being charged.
What Can a Lawyer Do if I Have No Charges Yet?
Quite a bit, actually. First, the lawyer can act as a go-between to insulate you from the police and prosecutor. Nothing he says can be used in evidence against you, but if You talk to them it can. You might say the wrong thing. You are not a lawyer after all, so you won't know what can hurt you. The lawyer will let the police and District Attorney know that he represents you and ask them to call him first if they DO issue an arrest warrant for you. That way he can take you to court voluntarily instead of letting you get arrested Friday afternoon, jailed over the weekend and then have to post bail. The police usually honor such requests when I do this, because it saves them going out to look for you. Then the lawyer can help you arrange bail and/or ask the judge to release you on your own recognizance (without paying any bond or bail).
So I Should Pay Thousands of Dollars to a Lawyer Only to Learn I Won't be Charged?
No. Of course not. I can't speak for other lawyers, but I accept a very limited representation just to contact the authorities as I described, and to try to arrange keeping the client out of custody while commencing the court proceedings. I also try to convince the prosecutor not to even charge the client, and for that I charge $300-400. Then if the client DOES get charged, he can negotiate a fee for the defense on the charges, or hire a different lawyer. Most people think paying $300-400 beats having police interrupt their dinner to arrest them in front of family or come to their job to do it.
What Can You Do to Prevent the Prosecutor From Charging Me?
If you're not guilty, sometimes a lot can be done. I can send the District Attorney in charge of reviewing new cases all kinds of data and evidence showing you are not guilty. I can give them witness statements, photos, or other evidence that shows you were wrongfully accused.
Why Should the Prosecutor Take his Time to Review What You Send Him?
Prosecutors don't like to charge cases they know they are going to lose. It makes them look bad, and it's a waste of their budget resources, so they may drop a weak case. Sure, it is possible that had you done NOTHING, he might have dropped the case anyway, but for a small fee, it may be worth it. I represented a client who killed an 80 year old woman pedestrian when exiting the highway. The District Attorney began a negligent homicide investigation. She hired me to do what I could. I learned that a LOT of accidents happened at that location at sunset when the sun was in exiting drivers' eyes. I ordered accident records from CALTRANS and sent them to the prosecutor. He wavered about dismissing, because the survivors were very angry. He hinted that they really wanted a sincere apology. I had my client do one in writing, reviewed it to make sure it was not incriminating, and sent it. The D.A. then dropped the charges. I've also succeeded with prostitution solicitation cases in this way.
So Being Pro-Active is Smarter than Just Waiting?
Yes. Plus, you have very little to lose. Whatever an attorney tells them isn't going to be any admission by you. Worst case scenario: he fails and they charge you, but you still get his help in avoiding being jailed when they charge you. It's been my experience that being out of custody the first time the judge sees you is good insurance. You know Newton's Law: An object at rest tends to remain at rest...? Well, an object in jail tends...... You get the idea.
What's The Catch?
Ummm. Can't think of one. Seriously, you're wondering why I'd resolve a case for only $400? Because often I can, and it brings me good referrals. Beware of the fear mongers who want you to hate lawyers. It keeps people from going for early legal help when it could do them the most good.