Common Mistakes People Make when Charged with a Crime
This guide lists several mistakes that people should avoid when they have been charged with a crime or are being investigated.
Waiting to Hire a Lawyer.People who have been charged with a crime may wait to hire a lawyer
until after they have been formally charged with a crime. However, you should
find an attorney as soon as possible even if you haven’t been charged yet. You
can take the time to interview a couple of criminal defense attorneys and find the
right one for your case, but be sure to have representation as soon as you can.
Having a lawyer on your side ensures your rights are protected throughout your
Talking to the Police Without an Attorney PresentIf you have ever watched a television police drama, you know that law
enforcement officers are trained to interrogate a suspect to elicit as much
information as possible before the right to counsel is invoked. Yet many people
are reluctant to contact an attorney right away. Some people think they can talk
their way out of an arrest. Others assume that asking for a lawyer will only make
them seem more guilty. The truth is, if the police have already taken you into
custody, they already think you are guilty. I have seen too many clients hurt by
talking to police without a lawyer present.
Consenting to a SearchGenerally, police need either a warrant or your consent to search your
home or vehicle. If police ask for your consent, it means they need it.
Consenting to a police search prior to speaking with your criminal defense
lawyer may result in further charges against you.
Speaking to Other People–Other than your Attorney–About Your CaseWe all have a natural desire to want to talk to someone about a stressful
situation. But talking about a pending criminal case to anyone except your
defense lawyer is generally a bad idea. This is especially true if you are being
held in jail pending a bail hearing or trial. Jail phone calls are recorded. In Ohio,
prosecutors can listen to all conversations inmates make between third parties
and are allowed to use those conversations against you at trial. Further, never
talk to your fellow inmates in jail about your case. Again, it is perfectly
understandable that you want to commiserate with someone about a stressful
situation. But many prison inmates know they can bargain for leniency or a
reduced charge if they can provide information (“rat out”) about fellow inmate.
Submitting to Tests without Express Permission or a Court Order.The police may ask you to submit to a blood, or DNA test when they first
detain you. You do not need to agree. Unless your lawyer says it’s okay, or you
are presented with a court order, do not submit to the test. If the police are
asking you to take a test while you are being questioned, but they do not have a
warrant, they cannot force you to take the test.
Trying To Talk To The Complaining Witness or Alleged VictimOne mistake people often make is reaching out to the victim or witness to
apologize or to explain themselves. Or even worse, they threaten or harass the
other person before trial. Any of these behaviors are big mistakes. If you try to
apologize for an offense, that apology can be used as an admission of guilt and
the prosecutor will try to use it against you at trial.
Not Taking Your Charge SeriouslyEven low-level misdemeanors and traffic tickets can effect your current
and future employment, government benefits, housing benefits, and military
status/eligibility. It is best to speak with an attorney before you admit guilt to any
charge even traffic tickets.
Hiring the Wrong LawyerIf you have never hired a criminal defense attorney before, you might
assume that all lawyers are the same. Some clients may simply hire an attorney
they already know even if they do not specialize in criminal defense matters. But
law is a highly specialized profession. For example, if an attorney practices
criminal defense, personal injury, divorce/domestic law, and bankruptcy law, they
are dedicating a significant portion of their time and practice to other areas of the
law. Criminal cases are serious and the law changes every day. You should
hire someone who knows the nuances of criminal law and has dedicated their
entire career and practice to criminal defense.
Trying to Manage Your Own Criminal Case or Lying to your AttorneyOnce you hire a highly skilled criminal defense lawyer, you need to let that
person do their job. If you are the type of person who needs to be in control of
every situation, this may be difficult. But trying to manage–or micromanage–your
own criminal defense is generally counterproductive. Furthermore, to construct a
solid defense for you, your lawyer must have the full and accurate account of
your arrest. If you lie or purposely leave out details, your case may suffer down