- What should I do if the police arrest me?
- Won’t the police think I am guilty if I ask for a lawyer?
- What should I do if the police search my home and take my computers, belongings, cash, etc?
- If I know I am being investigated by the police, but I am not yet charged, do I still need a lawyer?
- How do I pick the right lawyer?
- What does the right lawyer cost?
- Will my charges affect my immigration status?
- Will I have to register as a sex offender?
1. What should I do if the police arrest me?
Most importantly assert your rights to remain silent and to obtain counsel. New Supreme Court rulings as well as aggressive police tactics make it essential that you not speak to the police (or any agent of the state or federal government) without counsel present. Many high profile cases including the case of Martha Stewart were decided not on evidence of the crime the police were investigating to begin with, but on inaccurate statements made by Ms. Stewart in her interviews with the police. This underscores the importance of remaining silent, even if you feel you are completely innocent of the crimes of which you are accused.
2. Won’t the police think I am guilty if I ask for a lawyer?
This is a classic myth perpetuated by the law enforcement community. The truth is that the police already think you are guilty and they are looking for a way to confirm that. They won’t think you are MORE guilty if you ask for a lawyer, just MORE intelligent than the average suspect. Even if by some chance the particular officer thinks your assertion of right to counsel confirms your guilt, you won’t give him the chance to find evidence in your statements to corroborate his claims.
3. What should I do if the police search my home and take my computers, belongings, cash, etc?
First, ask to see the search warrant. If the police have a warrant, there won’t be much you can do to prevent them from searching your home and from seizing items that are set out in the warrant. Also, any evidence of crime that is openly visible to the police, but not in the warrant itself may be seized. Make no statements to the police. Assert your right to remain silent and your right to counsel no matter what they try to ask you during the search. The warrant may be able to be challenged later by a competent defense counsel, but your statements will prevent another challenge.
4. If I know I am being investigated by the police, but I am not yet charged, do I still need a lawyer?
The answer to this question is a definitive YES. Sometimes having an effective defense attorney handle your case during the investigative stage can lead to charges never being filed or lesser charges being filed (very often a felony can be mitigated to a misdemeanor before charges even exist). In federal court, an experienced, aggressive lawyer can get the entire case resolved before an indictment is ever issued; at this level, that is vital, since dropping charges from an indictment in federal court is a difficult and politically loaded project. Having counsel present during this phase reduces the chance of the police getting information by interrogating you or threatening you; remember that the police are allowed to lie to you but if you lie to them, it’s a crime.
5. How do I pick the right lawyer?
This is a difficult question to answer since each lawyer out there would obviously like to recommend himself or herself, however, there are certain universal rules about selecting an attorney for a specific legal need. Much in the same was that you would never have your dermatologist do your heart surgeries, you should never have your corporate or divorce lawyer handle your criminal defense needs. But the issue goes deeper than that. Because of the complicated and ever-increasing volumes of law that each state and the federal government produce with increasing ferocity, it is impossible for any one lawyer to know everything there is to know about the law in every area of even business, tax, family, or criminal law. For particular types of cases, to obtain the very best defense, you must find the lawyer most qualified to handle the intricacies of your particular problem. Experience and obvious knowledge in your specific concerns are the earmark of an excellent attorney to handle your particular matter. Talk to the attorney and make sure that he/she has sufficient knowledge in the field to make you feel comfortable with his assistance. After all, a good working relationship with a foundation of trust is necessary in an attorney-client relationship as in any business or personal relationship. Also the area of law is only one aspect in which the lawyer must be familiar, he or she must also understand the application of the law in a given jurisdiction. Federal courts, for example, present a different body of evidence law, different procedures, different rules of sentencing, different pre-indictment concerns for the defendant, and a different approach to negotiations, plea bargains, and trials than does a state court criminal investigation. Since federal indictments often carry serious jail sentences often in excess of 10 years and very rarely less than five years, an attorney with the proper training and experience in federal criminal defense will be necessary to ensure the best possible outcome. At the state level, another factor is the knowledge the lawyer has of the local judges, district or state attorneys and sometimes even law enforcement personnel. In state jurisdictions, especially rural ones, an existing positive working relationship will help the attorney to predict the strategies necessary to achieve a positive outcome.
6. What does the right lawyer cost?
We often have potential clients call our office and ask us immediately what the cost of their case will be if they decide to hire us. No lawyer worth his salt can answer that question over the phone. A lawyer’s fee is based on the amount of hours he or she will need to devote to your case, how many other cases he or she will need to forego, and what complications might arise along the way. The only way that the attorney can be familiar with those issues is to meet you in person and review the documents relevant to your case. This is why excellent trial lawyers often offer complimentary initial consultations, so that a client can become comfortable with the attorney and the attorney can evaluate the case in order to present a preliminary strategy and an appropriate fee. As with most things, you get what you pay for. That doesn’t mean that you always get the best legal help if you find the most expensive lawyer, but lawyers charge by the hour, generally somewhere between $200-$1,000 an hour depending on the lawyer and the type of case. So if you find a lawyer willing to handle your matter for $400, what you’ve essentially contracted for is about a maximum of two hours of legal work. That being said, we understand that these are difficult economic times and we are always willing to work with clients to ensure that they can pay their legal expenses. We take all major credit cards.
7. Will my charges affect my immigration status?
The United States’ Immigration law is a complicated conglomeration of rules and regulations from multiple agencies and bodies of law. It requires intimate knowledge of its intricacies to make an accurate assessment about which charges will trigger deportation or effect admissibility. If you are an immigrant, even if you have legal permanent residency, you must seek an attorney or firm with experience in immigrant defense and a working knowledge of immigration laws and their constant changes. There is now such an overlap between immigration and criminal law that the term “crimmigration” is often used to describe the intersect in these two areas. This has become particularly true in light of a recent Supreme Court decision, Padilla v. Kentucky, in which the Court recognized the severity of immigration consequences to many immigrant defendants in the criminal justice system. Many very effective defense lawyers now have immigration attorneys that they consult with regularly in order to remain abreast of the rapidly changing legislation, regulation, and priorities of the Department of Homeland Security and particularly Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
8. Will I have to register as a sex offender?
Sex offenses carry not only stiff penalties in the form of fines and jail time, but many statutes now require registration as a sex offender for long periods of time (10 years, 15 years, or even a lifetime). Because this collateral consequence is so severe, it is important that your attorney understands which pleas require registration, which make it discretionary with the judge, and which do not require or provide for sex offender registration. An experienced defense attorney in this area of criminal defense will have the tools necessary to determine when valid defenses exist in this particular area of law. Our firm has considerable experience trying cases of this type and getting acquittals in both bench and jury trials. Because everyone knows that an acquittal never requires registration as a sex offender.
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