Do I Need a Lawyer During a Criminal Investigation?
While arrests for crimes like driving under the influence often occur at the scene of the incident or after a very brief investigation, other kinds of offenses require law enforcement to collect extensive evidence before a judge will issue an arrest warrant. Particularly when it comes to financial or “white-collar” crimes, prosecutors must establish probable cause that a crime occurred before they can officially bring criminal charges.
However, if you have learned that you are under police investigation, you should get in touch with legal counsel as soon possible, even if you have not yet been formally charged. A criminal defense lawyer could enforce your rights and protect your best interests during a criminal investigation, whether or not that investigation ultimately leads to criminal charges.
Rights of Individuals Under Criminal Investigation
Cooperating with police who are investigating you for an alleged crime may seem like the best way to get the matter over with as quickly, but that is not always the case. Even if you are confident of your innocence, police officers and prosecutors could misinterpret your well-intentioned statements to create a very different account of what actually happened, which could result in significant legal consequences.
It is important to note that you have certain legal rights while being investigated for a crime, and law enforcement officials cannot infringe on these rights. For example, you have the right not to submit to unreasonable searches of your person or property without a warrant, the right not to speak with law enforcement if you do not wish to do so, and the right to walk away from a police officer who stopped you so long as you are not being detained. Additionally, you have the right to legal counsel at any point in the prosecutorial process, regardless of whether you have been formally accused of anything.
How Legal Counsel Could Help Someone Being Investigated by Police
One key reason to retain a lawyer early on in the criminal investigation process is to get experienced professional guidance as to what you should or should not disclose to investigators. Once retained, a skilled attorney could ensure you are aware of all your rights, stay by your side during any police interrogations, and help you avoid some of the tactics police officers use to coax people under investigation into incriminating themselves.
Depending on the circumstances, an experienced lawyer could also start collecting exculpatory evidence before a criminal investigation has concluded, if it seems likely that the investigation will end with criminal charges. Even if the police stop questioning you about a certain incident, that does not necessarily mean their investigation has been closed, so retaining legal representation can be key no matter the stage of the investigation.
If you believe you are or recently were under any kind of criminal investigation, you may need legal representation to ensure your case has the best resolution possible. Get in touch with a member of our firm today to learn more.