The Five Biggest Mistakes People Make When They Are Suspected, Arrested, or Charged With a Crime
When you are suspected, arrested, or accused of a crime it incredibly scary. All too often, people act impulsively and make a bad situation worse. By reading this guide, you have made a good decision to avoid some of the most common mistakes people make in this circumstance.
Mistake #1: Making a Statement Without An AttorneyIf you learn nothing else from this guide, please remember the following: The single biggest mistake people make when they are suspected, arrested, or charged with a crime is that they make a statement without a lawyer present. If you are suspected, arrested, or charged with a crime, often the most damaging thing you can do is waive your rights and make a statement to police. Making a statement without a lawyer present can cause irreversible damage and lead to the discovery of additional damaging evidence. Many times people make a statement thinking that it will help them in some way when it amounts to being a confession or damaging in some respect. Further, there is no guarantee that a statement will even be accurate. When you make a statement to police you are relying on them to take your words down accurately and truthfully. You should never take this for granted. Having an attorney present makes it much more likely that the statement will be accurately recorded. If, after speaking with an attorney, it is truly in your best interest to make a statement, you can almost always make that statement later.
Mistake #2: Consenting to SearchesIf police want to search through your house, your car, or your possessions, they will typically need a search warrant to do so. One exception to this rule is when suspects consent to searches. Police may or may not have enough evidence to potentially seek a warrant to conduct the search, but they will almost always indicate a warrant is just a formality. For example, police may say that it is "just a matter of time" before they obtain the warrant. In some cases this is true, in others it is not. The problem with consenting to searches is: 1) If the police really don*t have probable cause to search your house, car, or belongings, you have just waived an important right; 2) you have just guaranteed that police will in fact conduct the search as opposed to following the warrant process where they may or may not adhere to the requirements for a warrant; 3) There is no discernible benefit to be obtained from consenting to a search. If police obtain a warrant, you are no worse off than if you consented to a search.
Mistake #3: Failing to Speak to an Attorney Before Serious Damage Has Been DonePeople typically wait too long to speak with an attorney. Good advice from an attorney at the investigation stage can result in a much better outcome for your case. An attorney can: 1) shut down communication attempts with the police or negotiate protections for their clients; 2) explain the jeopardy the client is in in concrete terms of the actual crime and associated punishment; 3) negotiate with the prosecutor prior to the filing of the case; 4) negotiate terms of a surrender where applicable, and 5) find out more about the circumstances of the investigation itself, including locating and preserving evidence that shows innocence that is at risk of destruction with time.
Every attorney has a story of a case where, if only the client hadn*t blundered through the investigation phase of the case, charges likely would not have been filed. If an attorney is able to give you good advice that avoids charges, the cost of that representation will likely be far less than it would after charges are filed. Many times initial consultations are free of charge.
Mistake #4: They Talk About the Case With People Other Than LawyersEverything that you tell your lawyer is typically a privileged, confidential communication the lawyer cannot share with others. Communications during a consultation with your lawyer cannot be used against you in a criminal prosecution. The same is not true with virtually anyone else. Communications with loved ones, employers, friends, or other people are not privileged and can, in most circumstances, be used against you. This is especially true if you are held in custody where all phone calls are recorded.. None of those statements are confidential and, if discovered, the prosecutor will not hesitate to use them against you. **Note: Phone calls to and from attorneys at most jails should not be recorded or monitored. HOWEVER, you should always ask attorneys BEFORE you speak with them over the phone whether their phone number is on the ATTORNEY DO NOT RECORD LIST. If your attorney is not on such a list, you should not discuss sensitive details about the case over the phone and should instead insist on meetings in person.
Mistake #5: Sending Text Messages, Emails, Letters or Post Damaging Things on Social MediaThese days, the first place police will often turn for evidence is a suspect*s social media accounts. You would not believe how often lawyers have seen damaging pictures of guns, drugs, money, travel itineraries, and other damaging evidence on Facebook, Instagram, or other social media platforms. If you are on social media, it should go without saying that it is a bad idea to post things that are incriminating. For example, if you are accused of selling drugs, pictures of big stacks of money on Facebook is likely to be used at your trial. If you are accused of domestic violence, a rant about your no-good estranged spouse can be a problem for your defense. Nothing is confidential on social media. You should always assume that law enforcement will be reviewing your social media accounts for incriminating evidence. Changing privacy settings can help to a degree but damage can still be done on social media accounts if you have damaging information that is published.
Remember also, the act of sending a text message, an email, a letter or even leaving a voicemail can be extremely damaging to your case if admissions are made. In some circumstances (such as a violation of a no-contact order case) even dialing a phone number can be damaging if the recipient of the phone call has caller ID.