When Should I Hire A Criminal Defense Attorney?
First, understand that you have the right to seek the advice and representation of a criminal defense attorney at any time. Nothing prevents you from calling a lawyer as soon as a police officer approaches you. You can reach out during a traffic stop, at a DUI checkpoint, when stopped for questioning, or when an officer shows up at your door.
You will want to be polite and respectful when speaking with the officer. Avoid reaching into a pocket or purse to retrieve a phone. Being rude and/or sudden movements create far more problems than they resolve.
Based on my years of experience doing criminal defense in and around Columbus, Ohio, there are times when it is critical to call a criminal defense lawyer like me. If you have been taken into custody, if you are being questioned prior to arrest, if you believe there may be an investigation that could result in charges being filed, or if you have been formally charged with allegedly committing a crime, use your lifeline to contact a lawyer. Even if you decide not to hire them or charges never get filed, it is very important to get much needed advice from an experienced lawyer.
When in Custody
Speaking with a lawyer soon after it becomes obvious that you will likely be arrested and charged will help you understand what to expect and how to act. This can be especially important if you have limited experience with the police and courts.
How you interact with officers and detectives will influence how they treat you and can either help or severely hurt you as the case moves forward.
Asking for legal representation before and during questioning will not necessarily stop law enforcement officials from trying to interrogate you, but it can be used to keep out evidence that was gathered during the interrogation. You must continue to assert that you wish to speak to a lawyer prior to answering questions. This will allow you to refuse to answer or at least wait to answer until your criminal defense attorney can be present.
For Your Arraignment
An arraignment is a court hearing at which a judge reads the charges being filed against you. The judge will ask you if you understand the charges and how you plead. The best response is almost always to request a continuance to speak with a lawyer. Entering a not guilty plea can also be appropriate if you have already talked to your lawyer. Entering a not guilty or requesting a continuance gives you and your lawyer an opportunity to prepare a defense while assessing all the evidence gathered by the police and prosecutors.
Having a lawyer with you in court ensures that you completely understand your legal options and what the judge tells you. A lawyer may also be able to take actions during or immediately after the arraignment that can benefit you as the case proceeds.
For instance, asking to appeal a license suspension made in conjunction with an arrest on suspicion of drunk driving must be done within the time period currently required by law. Missing the deadline waives the ability to have the suspension removed based on improper procedures, paperwork, etc.
While Preparing for Trial
This should seem obvious, but too many criminal defendants decide against hiring a lawyer. Most states require people to demonstrate actual financial need before they can be assigned a public defender for the duration of their case. Since not everyone qualifies for public defender services, the potential cost of hiring a private defense lawyer can deter many defendants from doing so. We, as criminal,traffic and DUI defense lawyers, understand that most people don’t save for these types of potential legal problems.
The truth is that most criminal defense attorneys will work with clients to set up reasonable payment plans. A dedicated lawyer will do all they can to ensure a client receives necessary services.
Partnering with an attorney while preparing a defense is extremely important. I can’t tell you how many times I receive call from people who were fresh out of court having been found guilty likely because they represented themselves. Prosecutors know the law and the court system. They will use this knowledge to increase the odds of securing a conviction and maximizing the potential penalties. A criminal defense attorney also knows the law and the courts. This knowledge can and will be used to protect and benefit you in your case.
Your criminal and traffic defense lawyer will know how to obtain and analyze evidence, arrange for expert testimony if necessary, and prevent the prosecutor from violating strict rules put in place to protect your rights. Beyond that, an experienced criminal defense attorney will know how to negotiate a plea deal that benefits their client. Getting charges dismissed is not always possible, but avoiding a bad outcome due to lack of knowledge is almost always an option.