If you’re ever in the unfortunate circumstance of being arrested, you may not know what to do. You’re likely going to feel scared and/or overwhelmed, and you might be tempted to make a bold play—like making a formal confession—just to get things over with quickly.
However, no matter what situation you’re in, it’s almost always better to call a criminal defense attorney. But why are criminal defense attorneys valuable, and in what situations should you make the call?
The Benefits of a Criminal Defense Attorney
There are several important benefits of hiring a criminal defense attorney to work on your behalf.
- A good understanding of the law. Even if you have some understanding of the law, your lawyer will know it better. They’ll be able to help you understand what you’re being charged with, what the possible repercussions are, and what the prosecutors can and can’t do. This is useful for a number of reasons, including providing you with confidence and reassurance in a stressful situation; more importantly, this will prevent you from making critical mistakes, and will help you determine your next actions.
- Existing relationships with prosecutors. Most criminal defense attorneys have preexisting relationships with prosecutors, and may be on good terms with local police officers, judges, and other professionals. If you’re trying to negotiate a deal or get off on favorable terms, this can be extremely useful; your lawyer will go to bat for you and try to get you the best deal possible.
- Previous experience. Your criminal defense lawyer will certainly have past experience in dealing with cases like yours. They will understand the typical ebb and flow for cases like these, and will be able to set your expectations for what comes next. They’ll also have knowledge on the best course of action to proceed, and will be able to handle your case with finesse and professionalism.
- Advice and direction. If you’re trying to deal with the fact that you’ve been arrested, you may not know what to do next. If left to your own devices and decision making, you may not go with the best overall decision for your future. A lawyer will be able to provide you with formal legal advice; they’ll recommend a specific course of action that will be most likely to leave you in a good position. They’ll factor in variables like the nature of the case, the strength of the evidence, and their knowledge of the judicial system to calculate your chances of success in various scenarios. Ultimately, the choice will be left to you, but with a lawyer on your side, you’ll have a much better knowledge of the consequences of your choice—and direction on which choice they think is best.
- Supervision and treatment. After arresting you, police officers will likely attempt to get a confession from you however they can, sometimes lying or bending the truth in a way to persuade you to talk. In some cases, they may even be willing to break the law to get what they want. Working with a criminal defense lawyer will give you some measure of protection; your lawyer will supervise and engage in the interrogation to ensure that your rights aren’t violated along the way.
- Financial savings. Some people are reluctant to pay money for a criminal defense lawyer, but most lawyers will save you money in the long term. They’ll be able to fight for lower fines and other legal fees, ultimately netting you a return on your investment. This is especially true if you can avoid jail time.
When to Call an Attorney
You’ll want to contact a criminal defense lawyer any time you’re facing significant criminal charges. These could include something minor, like a small drug possession charge, or something much more serious, like a murder charge. If someone is accusing you of a crime, you should get in contact with a defense attorney as quickly as possible.
Ideally, you’ll call an attorney as early in the process as possible. In the meantime, if you’ve been arrested, you need to familiarize yourself with your rights. If you’re being questioned, it’s best to remain silent until an attorney can meet with you and speak on your behalf.
How to Choose an Attorney
The last part of the equation, then, is choosing an attorney to work on your behalf. Search out several options in your city, and look at each candidate’s areas of practice and past experience. Then, get a feel for their communication style; is this person easy to work with?
Getting a defense attorney could spare you from being prosecuted, or drastically reduce your sentence. You should make the call as soon as possible after facing charges or investigation, no matter what.