Being arrested and charged with a crime is a traumatic experience. Often, the experience is made that much worse by our personal financial situation. Those charged with crimes are much more likely to be riding below the poverty level than those who manage to stay free and clear of the system. And that’s kind of the point: the less money you have, the more likely you are to commit a crime. It benefits everyone in society to avoid emptying your pocket when you’ve been charged with a criminal offense.
Don’t talk to the police. You have the right to remain silent, and you should abuse that right. There’s no reason at all to say anything except “I want a lawyer.” Even when you’re not guilty, the investigators and prosecutors want their “win” and sometimes that means twisting your words or tricking you into saying something you shouldn’t be talking about at all.
Retain counsel. Lawyers will gather the relevant facts and decide what to share with police. They will work together with you to decide whether your case is best resolved in or out of court. When the facts work against you, it’s most likely the attorney will speak with the prosecutor in order to seek a plea deal that can result in reduced charges and a reduced sentence.
Before hiring a criminal defense lawyer, you want to know as much as you can about their relevant experience. How many cases have they argued? How many cases have they won? New lawyers won’t exactly want to share this information, while experienced lawyers will shout it out from the highest mountaintops. Check the website. The information therein will quickly alert you to whether or not the attorney or law firm is young or old. Find someone whose reputation precedes him (or her).
Questions to ask if you’re unsure:
“Who will be handling my case and what experience does this person have?”
“How often do you argue in court versus out of court?”
“How much do you charge on retainer or per hour?”
“Where does the majority of your criminal defense experience lie? Have you handled cases similar to mine?”
“Will there be additional fees in the future if the case drags on longer than expected?”
“I’m charged with a misdemeanor. Do I need a lawyer at all? Am I better off speaking for myself? If so, what should I say to the judge?”
“What are my next steps/obligations?”
“Do you need any other information from me?”
Lawyers have heard every conceivable question. Never be afraid to share what’s on your mind or ask for additional information if you find yourself confused about the process. It’s very complicated. We understand. There’s no need to be intimidated!