Friday, March 23, 2012

What Can a Defense Lawyer Do for You?

A common mistake among people dealing with criminal situations is that they aren't sure what good hiring an attorney would do them.  Part of this is people not realizing when they should be talking to an attorney, what goes into a common representation, and where to find the right lawyer.  I'll try to touch on these things in a little shorter than normal article.

Note:  I intend for this to be somewhat short.  I make no guarantees.  Carry on...

First and foremost, knowing when you should contact an attorney isn't as easy as it seems.  I think most people know that they should speak with a lawyer if they've been arrested for committing a crime and are being taken to jail, but such an incident shouldn't be the first spark in your mind that you need legal assistance.

While the nature of some crimes leads to an immediate arrest, some crimes involve a certain amount of police investigation before any charges are filed.  If you are aware that police are investigating you regarding a crime that you may or may not have committed, that is a great time to speak with an attorney.  Often, the person of interest in a criminal investigation waits too long to contact an attorney, speaks with the police a couple of times, and in doing so, incriminates his or herself without even realizing it.  Police will use clever tactics to induce information from people they suspect of having committed a crime.  If you haven't been charged, detained, or arrested, your Miranda rights are not yet vested.  Police can ask you any question they'd like.  You have no obligation to answer them, but they will try to make you believe that being cooperative will make things a lot easier.  This is not always the case.

If you have been pegged as a person of interest in a criminal case, contact an attorney immediately.  There are a couple of good reasons to do this.

1) If you have legal representation and make this known to the detective investigating the case, the police can no longer contact you directly.  Any conversations they have with you would be unable to lead to any usable evidence unless you have your attorney with you.  This protects you from having to answer questions by yourself.  Getting the protection of an attorney is an important step to stopping the progress of the police investigation.

2) You're going to have a lot of questions that the internet won't be able to answer.  Every criminal investigation is different.  Having someone who has experience in the process guiding you and advising you through the process will prove invaluable.  Trying to navigate this complicated process on your own could lead to you making mistakes and increasing the chances that you are charged with and convicted of a crime.

Now, it's understandable that you may be leery of hiring an attorney and paying a fair amount of money when it's not 100% clear that you're even going to be charged with a crime.  This is an understandable concern.  However, I can assure you that getting an attorney on your side up front could save you a lot of money in the end by keeping your case out of court.  For instance, depending on the type of charge you are facing, I would probably charge you a flat fee for representation.  If you are yet to be charged, my typical practice is to charge only half of the normal flat fee for the type of crime you are being investigated for.  If you get charged, the other half will become due, but if you never get charged, you'll only owe half the normal fee.  Flat fees are a popular thing among criminal defense attorneys right now as they grant protection to both them and the client.  The lawyer is protected because he can ask for the money up front, ensuring he gets paid for his services.  The client is protected because they won't have to worry about crazy high bills coming at the end of each month.  They know exactly what their representation will cost and can budget accordingly.  Aside from attorney fees, you could be responsible for things like court costs, filing fees, paralegal fees, investigator fees, or extra fees to the attorney for going to court.  It quickly becomes easy to see why paying a little up front is more desirable than rolling the dice and risking being stuck with huge defense costs later.

Attorneys do a lot more for their clients than just defend them in the courtroom.  Attorneys advise clients on the way to answer questions, how to deal with the police, and how to carry themselves in the community when they are publicly suspected of a crime.  Your lawyer will be someone who you can confide in, knowing full well that they won't and can't tell anyone what you talk about.  They will inform you about the law governing the claims being made against you, explain what you will have to accomplish in order to avoid being found guilty, and can usually offer a little insight as to what the prosecution is up to.  When you hire a criminal defense attorney, you have at your disposal an almost endless supply of experience and knowledge that will give you the resources necessary to improve your chances of a good outcome in your case.

The other mistake people make in hiring an attorney is simply picking the one closest to them.  While geography should be a consideration in your decision making process, it should not be the only criteria you are using to choose your lawyer.  I would love everyone who lives in my city to choose me to be their attorney when they need a criminal lawyer, but the truth is I may not be the best fit for them.  On the other hand, I live a long ways from someone from Mankato, but maybe my technique, style, and personality would be the perfect fit for someone from that area who is facing criminal charges.  It really is important to use more than your local yellow pages to find a quality lawyer.  Talk to friends.  Check out the website of a few different firms.  Talk to some lawyers over the phone.  Send out some emails.  You will learn a lot about an attorney by how quickly he responds to an email or whether he answers the phone when you call.  If no one picks up, how long does it take them to call you back?  You need to have some urgency when dealing with the potential of criminal charges, so you want an attorney who has that same urgency when it comes to connecting with potential clients.  Use the resources at your disposal to find an attorney who can get you on the right track before charges are even brought.  Having that step up will prove valuable.

Hopefully this helps you determine when it's the right time to speak with an attorney regarding your criminal situation.  In summation, if you've been charged with a crime, if you're aware that you're a person of interest in a criminal investigation, or if you've been contacted by police regarding your role in the commission of a crime, it's time to touch base with a lawyer.  My general rule of thumb to my clients is that if you're wondering whether you need an attorney, you should at the very least be talking to one.  Many criminal attorneys (myself included) will offer you a free consultation in order to see if we like you, you like us, and what kind of defense strategy will be necessary.  This is a valuable offer and should be taken advantage of if you're unsure as to how you should proceed.

If you or a loved one have been contacted by police regarding a criminal investigation, are a person of interest in a criminal investigation, or have recently been charged with a crime, get on the phone with a Minnesota criminal defense lawyer today to start assessing your prospects and figuring out your next move.

As always, the content of this blog is not to be construed as legal advice.  This website is for entertainment purposes, only.  If you or a loved one may be in need of legal advice or representation, contact a Minnesota criminal defense attorney today for quality, specialized legal service.

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