Life is complex as it is, spicing it up with the complexity of facing a criminal charge could be quite devastating. There’s the accompanying emotional stress as well as the legal drama, and then there’s the financial cost.  Facing a criminal charge can easily keep you disconcerted, leading to poor decisions and terrible mistakes. Sometimes, making some mistakes during a criminal case wouldn’t be much of a big deal, but other times, it could be what slams you with a lengthy jail term. From the moment you are approached by the police, your actions could either strengthen or weaken your chances of staging a rock-solid defense. Seeking the professional counsel of a Westchester criminal defense lawyer is the best way to avoid making such mistakes. 

Sometimes, you might make just enough mistakes to get you docked even before you hire an attorney. You might say something wrong, do something wrong or even appear wrong. Remember, the words of your mouth, actions and even appearance are important aspects of profiling. To guard against making any risky decisions, we’ve put together some common mistakes to avoid when facing a criminal charge. 

Talking to the police 

After being arrested, it’s almost uncontrollable to try convincing the police that we are innocent. During the process, we try to tell the police as much as we can of what happened. Unfortunately, this is usually where accused people unknowingly let go of harmful information that could be used against them during a trial. It’s true that there are few situations where an accused person successfully provides information that absolves them of the alleged crime. But this is rare, especially in criminal cases with huge legal implications. You’re almost never going to convince the police to let you go once they have decided to arrest you. So trying to do so may actually end up being detrimental to you. 

Face Criminal Charges

Also, even when you aren’t trying to prove your innocence, you may say things out of panic that are downright incriminating. We know it may be hard to stay calm when facing the police, especially when accused of a criminal offense. But the key to avoiding any slip is to remain calm and say as little as possible. When in a panic, you are never going to know when you say something that could be used against you. So when arrested, the one and only reasonable thing to do is to immediately request to speak with your lawyer with a simple “I need a lawyer” statement. 

To be fair, the police can sometimes be a pain. They are trained to do just that. In some situations, you could probably be denied the right to talk to your lawyer. But be patient and let them exhaust their options, they’ll eventually let you speak with one. They could dangle the chance of getting off the hook if you can convince them with what you have to say. This is almost certainly going to be a lie and worse off, a dangerous trap. Never ever give a statement in a criminal case without first consulting with your attorney. 

These folks are professionals; they undergo lots of training for situations like this. They know just what to say to get you talking. You could say it’s their job, that’s what they get paid to do. The police will deploy different types of emotional weapons in their arsenal to get you to say something. Once again, the key is silence. Say nothing at all or keep asking for an attorney until you get the chance to talk to one. Your right to remain silent is guaranteed by the law. Take advantage of this as much as you can. 

Talking to friends and relatives about the case

The police aren’t the only people you should avoid talking about your criminal charge. Avoiding discussion of the details of your criminal charges with anybody is even perhaps more important. Since you’re likely to be very honest with your family and close friends, it’s quite possible to let go of any potentially incriminating details which may put them on the spot when asked to testify. Sure, you may trust them not to rat you out to the police, but things could take a bitter turn if they are subpoenaed by the police. By being subpoenaed, they may be under a legal obligation to disclose the details of your conversations with them and could be penalized if they fail to. 

Also, in the age of smart devices and social media, true privacy is just a mirage. Even when people you share information with do not disclose details of your conversations in court, several technologies could be used to obtain such details. While you’re having conversations right at your home, government agencies could remotely obtain evidence from smart home devices capable of recording videos and taking pictures. You never know where the leak will come from; it could be your friends, relatives, technology or yourself. The safest rule still remains to say as little as you can and nothing if possible. 

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Hiring an attorney late into the case

A good point to note is your timing in hiring a criminal defense lawyer. Preparing for a criminal case could require a significant amount of time. Your defense lawyer needs adequate time to examine all the legal facts of the case; the evidence against you, the legal implications and other facts in order to prepare an argument in your favor. There’s always a huge amount of backstage work that defense lawyers put into preparing for trial. Some cases could be so complex that a lawyer may need months to piece the facts together. 

Hiring a lawyer just before your trial does not afford them enough time to prepare your defense. This could result in situations where the prosecution lawyer has more knowledge of the case than your defense lawyer.  This is usually the beginning of woes during a trial. 

Not hiring a lawyer at all

Stated simply, not hiring a lawyer when facing a criminal charge is a classic recipe for disaster. Unless, of course, you know quite a lot about criminal law, you might be on the path to self-destruction. Criminal charges carry the prospect of jail terms and other steep penalties, so there’s simply no reason not to hire a lawyer. Financial constraints should not be much of a problem, if, for some reason, you cannot afford a private attorney of your choice, the court could appoint one for you. 

Most times, the only thing that stands between an accused person and a lengthy time behind bars is a good attorney. Hire an attorney, but not just any attorney. Hire a good reputable criminal defense lawyer to help you navigate the complexity of a criminal charge. 

Remember, your day job doesn’t have to be armed robbery before you are charged with a criminal offense. A doctor can be charged, so can a nurse, so can a trader – it can happen to anyone. You might be wrongly accused, but all of that won’t matter if you implicate yourself with silly mistakes. Your best chance of a defense in court lies with your attorney, but your greatest weapon against any criminal charge is your own self. Memorize these points we have shared, keep it to heart and do well to stay away from crime. 

By: Kimberly Pelesz

Family law and criminal defense attorney Kimberly A. Pelesz received a B.S. degree magna cum laude and an M.P.A. degree summa cum laude from Binghamton University. She earned her J.D. from Pace University School of Law in White Plains, where she was selected for Phi Alpha Delta. Her charitable activities include work with My Sisters’ Place in White Plains and the Westchester County District Attorney’s Humane Education Taskforce.