What is the optimal time for a person to retain a criminal defense attorney?

Mark C Cogan

Written by  Pro

Criminal Defense Attorney

Contributor Level 15

Posted over 4 years ago. 5 helpful votes



We have seen many situations in which delayed use of a criminal defense attorney has caused damage to the client's situation.

Frequently, when people find themselves under suspicion of criminal wrongdoing, they are frightened and make bad choices. The police exploit the suspect's fear of going to jail. Without engaging in tactics that would be legally objectionable, a cunning police officer can often get incriminating statements from the suspect, without the suspect even knowing that he is damaging his prospect at getting through the situation in one piece. Detectives may assure the suspect that they do not intend to place the suspect under arrest that day. What good is that, if the suspect makes statements that will be used to support prosecution the next day, or the next week, or the next month?


When a police officer is under suspicion of wrongdoing, the police officer gets a lawyer. Why should that not be good practice for anyone else?

Police officers sometimes insinuate that, in their eyes, a suspect who gets an attorney is someone they view with suspicion. What people need to realize is that, whenever a police officer is under investigation, the officer gets a lawyer without hesitation. If getting a lawyer is good practice for a police officer, why should it not be wise for a non-police officer who is under investigation?


Police have been known to lie shamelessly to suspects in an effort to get them to confess.

Not long ago, I had a case in which a police detective was speaking with a suspect, who happened to be a Middle School student. The detective was seeking to get incriminating statements from the young man. In order to accomplish her mission, the detective told the suspect that things would go better for the suspect if he told her the truth. So he confessed. Months later we were in court. I cross examined the detective about how she had interrogated my client. I asked the detective whether it was true that she had told my client that it would be to his benefit if he told her the truth. The detective agreed that she had said this to him. My next question to the detective: "And, detective, when you told my client that it would be to his benefit if he told you the truth, do you agree that you were lying to him?" The detective, being sworn to tell the truth in a court of law, agreed that she had lied. Confessing to the police was not in the client's interest.


The only smart thing someone can do when under suspicion is to tell the police that no statements will be made in the absence of legal counsel.

Anything else puts the suspect in grave danger. If the suspect confesses, the confession will be used in court. If the suspect lies, the lies will be used in evidence in court. If the suspect tries to talk his or her way out of the situation, the suspect's statements will invariably be used as evidence in court.


We have seen many situations in which a suspect's failure to get legal advice at the earliest possible opportunity has caused harm.

Without sound legal advice from a criminal defense attorney, the suspect may consent to searches that might otherwise be illegal. Without sound legal advice from a criminal defense attorney, the suspect may make incriminating statements. Without sound advice from a criminal defense attorney, the suspect may do all kinds of things that will make a bad situation even worse. If you are under investigation, you should get a good criminal defense attorney on board immediately.


Beyond giving good advice to a suspect, there are many other things that a good attorney can do to help the situation.

I have negotiated settlements on behalf of clients facing investigation, which have led to no charges being filed. Because of timely action on the part of legal counsel, the client thus avoids the humiliation and expense of being arrested and dragged through the legal system. Timely investigation has enabled me to head off serious criminal charges before they get off the ground. I have cleared clients of the most serious charges as a result of strong advocacy before the charge is even filed. As a result, clients have not had to see the inside of a jail cell or a courtroom. Criminal defense attorneys love to win at trial. But it is a far greater victory, for the client, when no criminal charge is even prosecuted.

Additional Resources

Mark C Cogan, PC, Law Offices

Rate this guide

Can't find what you're looking for? Ask a Lawyer

Get free answers from experienced attorneys.


Ask now

29,141 answers this week

3,161 attorneys answering