Smithson Law Office:
Misdemeanor & Gross Misdeanor
Information To Know When Charged With a Crime.
If you have been charged with a crime, do not panic. An experienced criminal defense attorney can reduce the charges, the penalties, or get the matter dismissed entirely. Here are some things you should know:
* You are never required to speak to the police after being arrested. “You have the right to remain silent” is not just for TV, it is a critical right to allow the accused a chance to talk with counsel before anyone else. If you are arrested and interrogated, be polite but do not answer questions. Simply ask to speak to your lawyer, and wait for them to arrive.
* Be very careful with whom you discuss your case. The prosecution has the power to call almost anyone to be a witness, including people you spoke with after you were charged. Those people may be forced to say something in court you did not want repeated.
* One exception is known in Washington as “marital privilege,” which means your spouse cannot be used as a witness against you when you are a defendant. Note that marital privilege does not apply if your spouse is the victim in your matter.
* Another exception is the “attorney-client privilege,” which requires everything you tell your lawyer be kept in confidence. Your attorney is your advocate and ally. Make sure to always tell your attorney the truth.
* It is important to keep copies of everything the police and court give you, as these often contain key dates. The more information your attorney has, the more they can help you resolve your situation.
* Generally, pleading Not Guilty in arraignment gives you the most power in working with the prosecutor and court. You can always change your plea later,,if you decide it is in your best interest to do so.
A Guilty plea essentially leaves a defendant at the mercy of the prosecution.
* It is important to retain counsel as soon as possible. Your lawyer will start examining the evidence, speaking with witnesses, etc. Every day that goes by from the arrest makes this more difficult.
* Can you represent yourself in a criminal matter? Absolutely, it is known as proceeding pro se. However, while pro se is sometimes appropriate for small-claims court, one takes a real risk in representing themselves in a criminal matter, when the stakes are much higher. An attorney is critical to navigate the legal process and give a defendant some peace of mind while they wait for this stressful situation to be resolved.
The information provided here is meant to be general and instructional, and does not constitute legal advice. For specific consideration of your individual circumstances, please consult a local attorney.