The age-old advice maintains that if you are in a situation where you ask “do I need a lawyer?” the answer is almost always “yes.” The reasons for this are numerous, yet the justification for the expense and effort required to make the right decision when it comes to retaining counsel, especially if you are facing criminal charges, can be a challenge, especially for someone who is unfamiliar with the justice system.
The fact is criminal justice has a set of rules, both written and unwritten, that will determine your success in navigating your case. Few of these rules turn on your guilt or innocence and even fewer turn on the evidence you develop during your case or the evidence you present at trial. Generally speaking, the only way to learn these rules is to lose a case, or to lose several cases. That’s something an attorney can afford to do. You can’t. You don’t get a practice swing. If you are facing potential criminal charges in a place like Clearwater, Florida, for example, here are some things you should consider before the charges are filed.
The Silver Rule
If the golden rule is “do unto others,” an attorney like William Hanlon Criminal Lawyer in Clearwater FL will tell you the silver rule is “remain silent and let me do the talking.” The very fastest route to a criminal record goes directly through a police interrogation room, where you have no advantages and the police and prosecutor have every advantage. They can lie to you. They can threaten you with all manner of charges and penalties, even if they know they can’t even get to trial with them. They can even tell you you’re not a suspect, or tell you they have evidence when they don’t.
Your only defense is to be absent for your interrogation, remain silent and ask for an attorney. The Sixth Amendment was written precisely for situations like this, because it is very easy for you to ensnare yourself in a criminal taffy wad even if you can prove your innocence with live video filmed by a federal judge with the president of the United States holding the boom microphone.
The Elements of the Case
Your attorney knows what the prosecution must prove in order to convict you. The average criminal defendant has no idea what the “elements” of a crime are, and even less of an idea what is necessary to prove them beyond a reasonable doubt. Many defense attorneys can persuade a prosecutor to withhold filing their case or to drop it altogether by convincing them they don’t have enough evidence to prove the charges.
There is a big wide-open space between probable cause, which is the threshold for search warrants and Grand Jury indictments, and getting twelve jurors to conclude the prosecution has established proof beyond a reasonable doubt a defendant fulfills the elements of a criminal act. This is one of the key reasons most federal criminal cases never get to a courtroom. The average U.S. Attorney usually has a much easier time pleading a defendant than proving their case.
By law, the prosecution must divulge the evidence they plan to use at trial prior to opening statements. Once your attorney gets a look at said evidence, they may find enough flaws to sustain a motion to dismiss, which means you may escape prosecution entirely, at least until the police and district attorney develop a stronger set of facts. A person untrained in the law has no chance of drafting a successful motion to dismiss on their own, even with the help of the legal aid services or a paralegal. Defense attorneys know what buttons to push when they confront a prosecutor. That requires experience and knowledge of those unwritten rules.
Criminal defense is an arcane and widely misunderstood profession. It can’t be successfully navigated by amateurs. If you anticipate criminal charges, your top priority must be to retain counsel and prepare a competent defense. Anything less invites disaster.
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