How do I know if I need a criminal attorney

Do I need a criminal attorney?

Chances are if you are asking yourself this question, then the answer is a resounding “YES.”  Sure, people have thought they might need a criminal attorney when they in fact did not.  However, far more people have mistakenly thought that they did not need a criminal attorney when they desperately did.  If you think you need a criminal attorney and, in fact, do not, contacting a criminal attorney will not cause you any harm.  If instead you think you do not need a criminal attorney when you actually do, you can cost yourself a lot of heartache later when you realize you made a terrible mistake.

If there is anything that I’ve learned in my almost fifteen years of practicing criminal law is that people often wait far too long before they realize they need a criminal attorney.  Most people call me after they’ve been formally charged with a criminal offense and have a looming first court appearance. Some people even wait to call a criminal defense lawyer until after their court case has long been underway and they have a fast-approaching trial date.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s far better to call a criminal defense attorney late than never at all.  However, those clients who reach out at the first possible opportunity to consult with a criminal defense attorney are those who make the fewest missteps in their criminal case.

Without a doubt, the best time to reach out to a criminal attorney is when you are first contacted by law enforcement if you’ve become a suspect of a crime.  If you have not yet been arrested, the police won’t go out of their way to offer you the opportunity to talk to an attorney. They may be pushy.  They may even act as if they’re on your side.  But rest assured, if the police are involved and they think a crime has been committed, then you may very well be their prime suspect.  If you’re not the victim of a crime and have any reason at all to believe you might instead be a suspect, then NOW is the perfect time to ask, or better yet demand, an attorney.

You may have heard of the oft-quoted line, “You have the right to remain silent.  Anything you say can and will be used against you.”  If you have any difficulty understanding what exactly this means, let me break it down simpler for you.  You can and should shut up if the police are talking to you and you have anything you don’t want them to know.  You may also have heard it said, “You have the right to an an attorney . . . .”  That doesn’t mean on Christmas morning.  That means right now.  Given that you should demand an attorney right away.  If you wait any longer to get an attorney than during the police investigation, you’ve already waited far too long.

What good is a criminal attorney going to do me?

The best part about demanding a criminal attorney during a police investigation is that police cannot ask you any more questions until you get a criminal attorney. Better yet, if you tell them that you want to remain silent or don’t want to answer any questions, they have to stop asking you questions altogether.  

Most importantly, this can keep you from saying anything stupid that can later be used against you.  It also serves the important role of giving you the opportunity to talk to an expert in police investigations who can help arm you with valuable information.  Most criminal attorneys will even talk to you for free during a criminal investigation and give you valuable advice.  Whether you end up hiring them later to help you with the criminal charges that might eventually be coming, getting their advice during a criminal investigation is one of the best bargains you will ever find.

Talking to a criminal attorney during an investigation might save you from fully or partially confessing to a crime.  It might keep the police from learning of other evidence they can use against you that you might unwittingly teach them exists.  In many instances, the only real strong evidence that they will be able to find proving that you committed a crime is your own statements admitting to as much.  People get really stressed out when police ask them questions.  You may even think that things will turn out better if you are just honest with the police.  While honesty is usually a good policy, silence is the best policy when dealing with the police.

Breath Test Refusal

What types of crimes do I need a criminal attorney for?

There really is no such thing as a criminal charge that’s too small to get an attorney’s help with. Many people smartly hire attorneys to help them even with simple traffic tickets.  If you are facing a crime that can lead to jail or prison, probation, expensive fines and fees, and a criminal record that might follow you around for life, then there really is no excuse for not hiring a criminal attorney.

However, the more serious the criminal charge, the more important is the need for experienced criminal defense help.

Felony charges are criminal charges for which you can be sent to prison for more than a year.  These types of charges can have the longest lasting consequences and most necessarily require the help of an experienced criminal defense lawyer.

Misdemeanor charges for DUI and domestic violence can also have serious consequences that might never go away.  They can cost you jobs, your license, housing, your firearm rights, and the ability to contact your loved ones.  These consequences can follow you for years.  It rarely pays to try to navigate these types of charges by yourself.

What are the benefits of hiring a criminal attorney?

We’ve already talked about why you want to get a criminal defense attorney’s help during a police investigation.  However, you may not fully realize how crucial a criminal attorney is if you are facing a full criminal case.

A criminal attorney can help protect your rights every step of the way during your criminal case.  This can include helping you stay out of jail while the case is pending.  Whether that means making sure you don’t have to post bail or keeping that bail as affordable as possible, you will generally be in a far stronger position in your criminal case if you can defend against the charges while free rather than in jail.

A criminal attorney can provide you legal advice about each and every option available to you in your case.  This can be on questions as simple as what conditions of release should be imposed during the case.  It can also extend to complicated questions like what kinds of pretrial motions to file to try to weaken the prosecution’s case.  You wouldn’t try to hike Mount Everest without an expert guiding you along the way.  A criminal case is no different, so it pays to hire an expert to guide you along the right path.

An experienced criminal attorney can help negotiate your case for you with the prosecutor.  Good negotiations can make a terrible situation turn into a manageable one.  They can help you avoid prison or jail.  They can help you keep your life from falling apart.  Working with a criminal attorney that understands what is most important to you in a case can most effectively deliver an outcome that protects those interests for you.

A criminal attorney represent you at every court appearance including trial.  The chances are high that you will have no idea how to navigate the court system by yourself.  There are entire libraries written about how to operate in court that you’ve never read.  No amount of watching Law and Order will ever prepare you for what a real court case looks like.  Hiring a skilled criminal attorney can insure that you don’t make any missteps in court, especially when it matters the most.

Lastly, if you are facing a judge or prosecutor that is doling out a sentence for you, you want a persuasive and trustworthy criminal attorney that can convince the judge or prosecutor that you are a real person that deserves leniency and a second chance.  A criminal attorney with a stellar reputation can persuade the court that you are a person who can do better in the future and deserves not to have the book thrown at them.

So in the end, if you’re asking yourself “Do I need a criminal attorney?”, you should understand that there are few instances where that answer is “No.”  If you are unsure, then call a criminal attorney to find out. Criminal attorneys often provide guidance for free on the phone.  They can help you decide what you are really facing and if you in fact need their services.  If you find yourself in this type of situation, give the criminal attorneys at VanWa Legal PLLC a call.  We’ve helped hundreds of thousands of people in the same situation.  It’s what we do.

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