I have not been charged or arrested but think I might be. Do I need a lawyer?
Absolutely. A criminal defense attorney is critical to protecting you and your rights. Many criminal prosecutions begin with an investigation into a Complaint by law enforcement. During this investigation, critical decisions are being made about the case such as whether to file a charge, whether to obtain a warrant or whether to decline to proceed with the matter altogether. We know how this process works and how to use the investigation for your advantage.
When you hire O’Connell & Aronowitz, we immediately begin to intervene in your case by preparing you and your family for what’s to come, preserving evidence and conducting our own investigation into your case. While some people may “wait and see what happens”, we immediately get to work to protect you.
Police investigations can also disrupt your life in other ways such as your employer being notified, coworkers, neighbors and friends being interviewed. The earlier we get involved, the greater the chance we can help mitigate these disruptions and prevent law enforcement from obtaining damaging information about your case.
Our Criminal Defense team has handled many cases where our early intervention resulted in no charges being filed against our clients and many more where we helped secure a more favorable outcome because we controlled the case from the start. Simply put, the consequences are too serious to sit back and wait to see what the police will do.
A Police Officer, Investigator or Prosecutor want to speak to me. Should I?
Not before consulting with an attorney. If you agree to speak with law enforcement, any investigator or a prosecutor, anything you say can be used against you or someone else you care about. Even if you are not the target of the police investigation, someone you care about may be. By consulting with us prior to speaking with a government agent, we can work with you and the government to ensure your interests and those you care about are respected and protected.
Remember, you are not required to speak to law enforcement or a prosecutor unless you are subpoenaed (ordered by a court) and even then, you have rights which need to be protected. The bottom line is, if you are approached by the police or someone else from the government and asked to answer questions, respectfully decline, get their contact information and consult with a lawyer.
If I know I’m guilty, should I just plead guilty?
Absolutely not. Hiring a defense attorney is not reserved for just the innocent and you should not forfeit your rights to protect yourself, your family or your future. Additionally, you may have defenses under the law that apply to your case that you do not know about. Criminal convictions can permanently infringe on your rights such as your ability to hold certain jobs, to obtain/keep certain licenses, and prevent you from living in certain places and even receiving certain government benefits. Without a skilled attorney advising you and fighting for you, you could face consequences you never imagined. It is critical that you understand the consequences, the accusations and what your options are before making any decision. .
A family member or friend was just arrested. What now?
After someone is arrested (now the “accused”), they are often questioned by the police. The accused has an absolute right to answer any question and to request an attorney – and staying silent until you speak to an attorney is almost always the best decision. Additionally, once the accused is in police custody, they have a right under federal and state law to have an attorney present during any questioning by the police. Police will often read the accused their rights from a card or form and then ask the suspect if they understand the rights and/or hand them the form to sign. These are the so called “Miranda Warnings” we all hear about on TV. Unless the accused says that they want a lawyer, they are not getting one and the police are free to ask questions and use the answers against the accused.
Next, the accused is “booked” or processed by the police. This involves taking the accused’s fingerprints, biographical information and taking an identifying photograph (aka “Mug Shot”). This process is often times recorded by security cameras and is used as another opportunity for law enforcement to obtain more information against the accused.
Finally, the accused is brought before a judge where they are formally notified of the charges against them and informed of their rights. This process is called the arraignment. The arraignment is a critical stage of the judicial process and the accused has an absolute, constitutional right to have an attorney present during the arraignment. At the arraignment important information can be learned and communicated to the Court and prosecutor by a skilled attorney. During arraignment, the Court will also address the issue of bail (see more below).
If your family member or friend is arrested, remind them to tell the police they want to speak to a lawyer and not to say anything until they can speak with a lawyer. You should then immediately engage an attorney to help protect them.