Unless you have a lengthy criminal history, you likely know very little about what really happens during a criminal investigation and even less about what happens after an arrest is made. In fact, your knowledge is probably limited to what you have seen on one of the many police dramas on television, meaning your knowledge is based in fiction, not fact. Consequently, if you find yourself the target of a criminal investigation you may feel as though you are unknown territory with a seemingly limitless number of questions and concerns. One of the biggest questions you likely have is “Do I need a defense attorney before I have officially been charged with a crime?” The best way to answer that question is to first explain how the criminal investigation process typically operates. Once you have a better understanding of the investigation process you will likely see why hiring an experienced Nebraska criminal defense attorney is always a good idea if you have reason to believe you are the target of a criminal investigation.
Who Is a Suspect in a Criminal Investigation?
One of the most common mistakes people make when confronted with a request by a law enforcement officer to “talk” to him/her is to assume that the request relates to an innocent “chat.” Police officers, however, do not waste time or resources on “chats.” When investigating a serious crime, law enforcement officers will interview a number of people in an attempt to gain useful information about the perpetrator of the crime. Make no mistake, however, that almost everyone is a potential suspect in the eyes of a law enforcement officer. You can go from being an unlikely suspect to the number one suspect during your innocent “chat,” all because you talked to the police without an attorney present.
If I Have Nothing to Hide, Why Do I Need a Defense Attorney?
Mistake number two is often the belief that if you are innocent, you don’t need an attorney. In a perfect world, you would not need an attorney if you have nothing to hide; however, we don’t live in a perfect world. The reality is that if the police want to talk to you, or conduct a search of property owned by you, it is because they believe you have some connection to the crime. Even if you are completely innocent, something you say could be misinterpreted by the police and could make you look guilty. Unless you are accustomed to being interviewed by the police you will likely be nervous. Your nerves could lead you to appear guilty or even provide incorrect information. A single wrong answer could lead the police to believe you are lying or hiding something. That, in turn, will make you appear guilty.
Won’t I Appear Guilty If I Hire an Attorney?
A common misperception is that by refusing to speak to the police without an attorney present makes you appear guilty. Exercising your right to have an attorney present does not make you look guilty though, it makes you look smart and knowledgeable. The reality is that the police may already suspect you are guilty, meaning you have little to lose by hiring an attorney but you have much to gain by consulting with an attorney during the investigative stage of a criminal prosecution. Moreover, if you actually are guilty, hiring an attorney early on is undoubtedly the best chance you have of avoiding a conviction. Remember, the State of Nebraska has the burden to prove you guilty beyond reasonable doubt. You are not required to assist them in meeting that burden, meaning you do not have to cooperate in the investigation. By retaining the services of an experienced Nebraska criminal defense attorney before you have been charged with a crime you are ensured that your rights will be protected throughout the entire investigation and prosecution of the case.
If you have been contacted by the police with regard to a criminal investigation, or you otherwise have reason to believe you are the target of a criminal investigation, do not wait to be officially charged with a crime to contact an experienced Nebraska criminal defense attorney. The time to protect yourself is now. Contact Petersen Criminal Defense Law 24 hours a day at 402-509-8070 to discuss your case with an experienced criminal defense attorney.