If you were arrested and charged with a crime, you know you need to hire a criminal defense attorney. However, if you have not actually been arrested, how do you know when it is time to hire an attorney? Should you be concerned enough to hire an attorney if the police contact you and ask to speak to you or do you wait until they actually tell you they consider you a suspect? Knowing when in the process of a criminal investigation to hire a criminal defense attorney may be the difference between a conviction and an acquittal.
The Life of a Criminal Investigation
There are two basic paths to an arrest. One is when a law enforcement officer makes an “on the spot” arrest as a result of actually observing a crime or showing up shortly after a crime was committed. An arrest for driving under the influence or shoplifting are examples of this type of arrest. The other path to an arrest is the result of an investigation. This is usually reserved for serious crimes such as rape, murder, burglary, or major drug offenses.
A criminal investigation generally begins when a crime is reported by a witness or a victim. Law enforcement officers typically start their investigation by talking to as many people that are potentially involved as possible. Depending on the type of crime, they may also spend a good deal of time looking for physical evidence related to the crime.
Witness, Person of Interest, Suspect
At the beginning of a criminal investigation the police may have no idea who the perpetrator is or they may have a pretty good idea who it is but lack the evidence to make an arrest. Initially, most of the people they talk to will be considered potential witnesses, or simply people with information that may be helpful to the police. After talking to a witness, however, the police may decide that he or she has become a “person of interest.” A “person of interest” is often really a suspect against whom the police just don’t have any solid evidence. Consequently, they can’t call the individual a suspect yet. Once the police believe they do have enough evidence to indict an individual they will officially name him/her as a suspect.
When Do You Need a Criminal Defense Attorney?
One of the biggest mistakes people make is failing to retain a criminal defense attorney early enough during the course of an investigation. When the police contact you and tell you they just want to “talk” to you, it may sound harmless enough. After all, you have nothing to hide, right? Or even if you do, they aren’t planning to interrogate you, right? What you need to understand is that a police officer investigating a crime is suspicious of everyone he/she talks to during the course of the investigation. While the officer may tell you he/she simply wants to get your help, the reality is the officer is looking for a suspect. If you are not careful, you could become that suspect in the blink of an eye. An individual who thinks he/she is doing the right thing by cooperating with the police can go from witness to defendant overnight. Therefore, you need a criminal defense attorney the moment the police contact you about an ongoing investigation. You have an absolute right to remain silent. You also have a right to have an attorney present when you speak to the police. Both of those rights are extremely important. You must actually assert those rights, however, for them to protect you. Asserting your rights starts by contacting an experienced Nebraska criminal defense attorney as soon as you are contacted by the police about an ongoing criminal investigation.
If you have been charged with criminal offense in the State of Nebraska, it is certainly in your best interest to consult with an experienced Nebraska criminal defense lawyer 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.