Unless you are already familiar with the criminal justice system, it can be extremely intimidating to find yourself involved in the investigation or prosecution of a crime. One of the biggest mistakes people who are unfamiliar with the system make is failing to know when it is time to hire a criminal defense lawyer. Sometimes, the need for representation is obvious. At other times, however, it may not be so clear. If you were just arrested and charged with murder, for example, the need for an attorney is apparent. What about in other situations though? Do you need a lawyer if the police just want to talk to you about a crime? Do you need representation if you were a witness to a crime? How about if you were only charged with a minor offense? Ultimately, the decision to retain the services of an experienced criminal defense lawyer is yours to make. However, some guidelines might be helpful.
The Job of a Criminal Defense Lawyer
Before discussing specific scenarios pertaining to when a criminal defense lawyer is likely needed, it may be beneficial to first spend some time discussing the job of a criminal defense lawyer. A better understanding of all the roles a criminal defense attorney plays in the criminal justice system may help you to recognize when you need one.
- Protector – in the U.S., you have a number of important rights guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution, such as the right to remain silent and the right to a speedy and public trial by jury. A criminal defense attorney helps protect those rights for you when you choose to exercise them and walks you through a decision to waive them.
- Adviser – a defense attorney can provide you with advice on any aspect of the criminal justice system, from the initial investigation of a crime through the appeal of a guilty verdict.
- Guard – once you are represented by an attorney, no one is allowed to contact you directly regarding the case, including the prosecuting attorney and the police. Your attorney becomes your voice and, in essence, a guard posted between you and everyone else.
- Defender – although the majority of criminal prosecutions are resolved without the need for a trial, a criminal defense attorney starts preparing to defend you at trial from the moment he/she is hired.
- Negotiator – if you admit you are guilty of the charges against you, your lawyer’s role becomes that of negotiator in order to ensure you receive the most advantageous terms possible in a guilty plea agreement.
You Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer If…
Although it is clearly not possible to go over every possible scenario in which you could benefit from the assistance of an experienced criminal defense lawyer, some examples of scenarios when a criminal defense attorney is needed may be helpful. With that in mind, you need a criminal defense attorney if…
- The police want to “talk” to you as part of their investigation of a crime
- You are a witness to a crime
- The police show up at your house/work and want to conduct a search
- You are a “person of interest” in a criminal investigation
- You are arrested and charged with any crime
- You were convicted of a crime and you wish to appeal
- You are on probation and you have been notified that a violation is being filed.
When it comes to the need for a criminal defense attorney, the old adage “better safe than sorry” most definitely applies. If you are not certain whether you need representation, it is always better to consult with a defense attorney and discuss the matter than wish you had down the road.
If you have been charged with a criminal offense in the State of Nebraska, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced Nebraska criminal defense attorney right away. In Nebraska contact Petersen Criminal Defense Law 24 hours a day at 402-509-8070 to discuss your case with an experienced criminal defense attorney.