With the exception of disobeying speed limits and occasional lapses in strict observation of their town’s recycling ordinance, the majority of citizens are law abiding. They don’t often think about the possibility that they or a loved one may be wrongfully accused of a serious criminal act. In reality, it happens far more frequently than one might imagine.
As with a plan for your family’s safety in case of a natural disaster, hoping for the best while being prepared for the worst if you or a family member are falsely accused of a crime can make the difference between a successful outcome and a lifetime of expense, grief, and even the loss of freedom.
Everyone can and should have an arrest response game plan. Here are a few things to keep in mind when preparing yours.
1. Be the First to Call 911
The first 911 caller is usually the victim of or witness to a crime and only rarely the perpetrator. We’re not suggesting you call 911 about every little neighborhood annoyance, but if a situation seems dangerous or threatening, dial first and ask questions later.
2. You Can (and Should) Remain Silent
Most law-abiding people have a desire to cooperate with authorities. If you have been falsely accused, you will undoubtedly also want to explain to the police where they went wrong. Unfortunately, however, the police are trained in interrogation techniques, and the odds are high that you’ll volunteer something that can later be misconstrued or taken out of context.
Remember that your right to remain silent is guaranteed by the United States Constitution. Whether it’s you or a family member that’s accused, exercise that right and don’t talk to the police without a lawyer present.
3. Don’t Allow a Warrantless Search of Your Home
You know neither you nor your family have done anything wrong – you have nothing to hide. So there’s no reason not to allow a search, right? Wrong. While the police may try to convince you to consent, your home truly is your castle when it comes to police searches. While a warrant must be fairly specific as to the permissible scope and subject of the search, a search based on consent ordinarily has no such limits.
4. The Presumption of Innocence
Americans are taught from an early age that the goal of our criminal justice system is finding the truth and punishing only the guilty. In reality, once you are swept up in the system you’re likely to see things differently. Court dockets in many jurisdictions are badly backlogged, and the police, prosecutors, and even judges are under pressure to resolve cases quickly. This means that there is usually less interest in getting to the truth and more in disposing of your case, often through plea bargaining. Agreeing to plead guilty to a less serious charge can be tempting for even an innocent defendant, but it will still result in a criminal record and all of its possible consequences (incarceration, fines, probation, restitution, and sex offender registration, to name a few).
5. Get the Best Legal Representation You Can Possibly Afford
This should really be listed as your Number One priority. Do whatever it takes to secure experienced, knowledgeable, and aggressive legal representation. You get the quality you pay for, so don’t expect it to be inexpensive. Remember, though, that your or your loved one’s future is at stake. So take out a second mortgage loan, cash out or borrow from your 401(k), or sell off some assets. And, while it will probably feel humiliating, swallow your pride and reach out to family members if you can. You may be surprised at how supportive they will be.
6. Having a Lawyer Is Not Evidence of Guilt
Don’t worry about negative perceptions. The fact is that you need effective representation even more if you’ve been falsely accused. Like a foreign civilization, the criminal justice system has its own rules, prejudices, and language, and you need an experienced and knowledgeable guide to successfully navigate it.
7. Reach Out for Support
You will sometimes feel that you are alone in fighting an uncaring and impersonal system. A strong support network of family and friends is never more important than when you are fighting false criminal charges.
Don’t be surprised, however, if some friends, relatives, or neighbors withdraw from you. It’s not necessarily a sign they believe you are guilty, however. Many people, especially those unacquainted with the criminal justice system, are just uncomfortable around anyone who is dealing with it.
8. Don’t Ignore your Mental and Physical Well Being
While strong legal representation is essential, your lawyer can’t help you if you can’t help yourself. So plan to always bring your “A” game” to every stage of the case. Keep up (or establish) a healthy routine and lifestyle. Get regular physical activity, find stress relief techniques that work for you, and spend meaningful time with your family and other supporters. If you drink or use recreational drugs, be wary of using them to excess. They won’t make your problems go away and can make you less effective in assisting in your defense.
9. Go Dark on Social Media
Prosecutors love to troll social media sites in search of incriminating posts, photos, or other material. Resist the urge to discuss your case with Facebook friends or others outside your inner circle of supporters. Don’t, however, delete any existing posts or other material, as this may be construed as an attempt to hide damaging information.
10. Don’t Talk to the Media
Arrest records are generally public, so if your case has perceived audience appeal, you may be contacted by media representatives and asked to comment on the charges. While it will be tempting to tell your side of the story to a broadcast or print reporter, doing so will usually do more harm than good. Once you’ve retained a lawyer, he or she may recommend holding a news conference, but if that happens, let him or her do all the talking.
If you, family member, or friend has been wrongfully accused of a crime, call Joffe Law, P.A. today at 954-723-0007 for a free consultation. With access to reliable support staff and in-house investigatory services, our attorneys at Joffe Law, P.A. are able to bring their substantial skills to bear more efficiently and more effectively to work on your behalf.