No one wants to find themselves facing criminal charges, yet it happens every day. The criminal court and legal system is one that can be stressful and confusing for those who are facing criminal charges in Virginia. While many people are tempted to face their charges on their own, this isn’t always the smartest strategy to take. Whether you are innocent or have committed a crime, a lawyer can fight for your rights and interests. Their experience and knowledge of the criminal legal system help them to argue on your behalf and build a strong case advocating for your innocence.
Keep an eye out for these five signs that it could be time to hire a criminal defense attorney.
1. You’re Facing Jail Time
If the penalty for the crime you are charged with is jail or prison time, then your freedom and future are on the line. In most situations, the prosecutor will refuse to negotiate directly with the accused for a plea bargain. However, a defense attorney can contact the prosecutor to negotiate for a better outcome of your case on your behalf.
The sooner you hire legal representation, the earlier they can get to work on your case. This includes gathering evidence, contacting witnesses, and building a defense. The earlier your lawyer gets work on your case, the more likely they are to get the evidence needed for a strong defense. Your attorney also knows what type of evidence to ask for and what they have a right to request from the prosecutor.
2. The Police Want to Question You
If you are simply a witness to someone else committing a crime, then you are probably safe to speak with officers. However, if you think you might be a suspect, or if you are concerned about talking to the police, then you have the right to ask for legal representation before speaking with the police. Any statement you make to the police can be used against you in court, so even the most seemingly innocent statements can become evidence against you. When you hire a lawyer to represent you, they can guide speaking with the officers to ensure you don’t incriminate yourself, create discrepancies, and help the process work in your favor.
Similarly, the police may ask you to sign something. If you are strictly a witness, this is likely your witness statement, and you should be able to read the document and confirm as such. However, you can refuse to sign anything until your lawyer is present and can review the document for you. Signing documents that you are unfamiliar with can become incriminating evidence and even the source of a confession.
3. You Are Innocent
Innocent individuals assume that the truth will vindicate them because they are innocent, and they will be found innocent. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and countless innocent individuals end up servicing time in jail or prison. Hiring an experienced criminal attorney can help you fight for your rights and prove your innocence. A lawyer skilled in criminal defense can help exonerate you by gathering the necessary evidence to show that you could not have been the person to commit the crime or that your behavior was not against the law.
4. You Are Guilty
You know whether or not you committed the crime that you are accused of. All too often, guilty people fail to hire a criminal defense attorney to represent them. It is incredibly rare for a person to talk their way out of a criminal charge. A criminal defense attorney can professionally represent you during the legal process. Your attorney is more familiar with the court and judge who will hear your case. They know the rules of evidence and how to get good evidence in and keep bad evidence out. They can argue to reduce or dismiss your charges from a legal perspective.
5. You Receive a Warrant Notice
If you receive a notice in the mail for the warrant for your arrest or require you to appear before a judge, then you need to let your lawyer know immediately. If you don’t already have a lawyer, then this is the time to hire one. Doing this can help you avoid the embarrassment or humiliation of having police officers randomly show up and arrest you at home, at work, or even out grocery shopping. Never ignore a warrant because the problem won’t magically go away. In fact, it usually only gets worse. Sometimes, a lawyer can arrange to escort you to the police station or to court. This can mitigate the effect of the warrant notice and start the legal defense process.