Criminal Defense FAQs
Will hiring a lawyer make it look I’m guilty?
Absolutely not. You have a right to a lawyer under the US constitution at all stages of a criminal investigation, whether you have been arrested/charged or not. A criminal defense lawyer will help protect your rights and prevent police and prosecutors from taking advantage of you. Innocent people often go to jail because they did not have adequate legal counsel in their corner helping them respond to police questioning. Hiring a lawyer does not make you look guilty; it is a sign that you understand your rights under the law.
The police said it would be easier on me if I just tell them what they want to hear. Is that true?
Police officers, detectives, and prosecutors are interested in closing cases and winning guilty verdicts as quickly as possible. You have no obligation to help them, and it is your Fifth Amendment right under the US Constitution to not incriminate yourself. Giving up your rights against self-incrimination and to be represented by a lawyer will not make things on easier on you. On the contrary, it may make it easier for the government to prove a criminal case against you. Never provide self-incriminating information to the government without working with a criminal defense attorney whose sole interest is in protecting your rights.
Do I have a right to a lawyer under the law?
Yes. The Sixth Amendment of the US Constitution guarantees you a right to an attorney in any criminal proceeding. You also have a right to an attorney whenever you are being questioned by police. If you request an attorney, all questioning must stop until you are represented by an attorney.
What are my Miranda rights, and when am I supposed to get them?
Your so-called “Miranda rights” are that, when you are subjected to custodial interrogation, you must be told by law enforcement that you have a right to remain silent (the right against self-incrimination), that anything you say can and will be used against you, that you have a right to an attorney, and that if you cannot afford one, an attorney will be appointed for you. Law enforcement must provide this warning to you when you are subject to custodial interrogation, meaning you are being questioned by police and not free to leave. But it is critical that you understand that you always have those rights, regardless of whether the police have informed you of them.
I’ve already confessed to the police. Does that mean there is no point in hiring a lawyer now?
Even if you have “confessed” it is still important to have an attorney representing you. First of all, the confession may not be valid if it was coerced or if you were not provided Miranda rights. Furthermore, a confession is only one part of a criminal proceeding. Other evidence may prove your innocence. And even if you ultimately plead guilty or are found guilty, your defense attorney will work to obtain the least burdensome sentence possible.
The police searched my vehicle. Is that legal?
The law surrounding whether a police search of an automobile is very complicated. It involves questions of whether the officer was justified in stopping your car, whether you gave consent, whether there was probable cause to search the car, and so on. If the search was not legal, then no evidence recovered will be admissible against you.
I can’t afford a lawyer. Am I just better off with a public defender?
There are many great lawyers who work as public defenders and some not so great ones. Either way, most public defenders are horribly overburdened with heavy caseloads so they are often unable to provide you with the level of attention and detail necessary to present your best defense the way your own private lawyer can.
Can I represent myself in my criminal case?
Yes, you can, but only an experienced criminal defense lawyer is going to have the skills and knowledge to understand your rights and know how to protect them, while presenting your best case for innocence. The risks to your freedom, finances, and reputation in a criminal case are far too great to risk by representing yourself.
I haven’t been charged with a crime. Should I wait to talk to a lawyer?
If you have not been charged or arrested for a crime, but believe you are now or might soon be under investigation, it is in your interest to speak with a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible to begin the process of defending your rights now, as waiting may lower your ability to present your best defense.