There is little question that once a person is charged with even a relatively minor criminal offense in Florida, his or her best move is to seek the advice of a qualified and experienced criminal defense lawyer. An attorney can advise you concerning possible strategies for obtaining the best possible outcome of the charges against you.
But what about a situation in which a person believes he is under investigation by the police (perhaps he’s even been told this), but hasn’t been formally charged? Should he or she talk to a lawyer?
As the term suggests, a “pre-file” investigation is one undertaken by local, state or federal authorities in response to the occurrence of an actual or apparent crime that was not actually witnessed by a law enforcement officer. The purpose of this process is twofold. First, unless it is obvious from the facts, the authorities must determine to their own satisfaction whether there is credible evidence that a crime has been committed. Assuming there is evidence of a crime, the focus of the investigation becomes the identification of the perpetrator and the gathering sufficient evidence to convince the district attorney to file formal criminal charges against that person.
If the police identify you as a possible suspect, you can refuse to be questioned – even informally – without an attorney present. Whether to retain a lawyer at this early stage is a strictly personal decision, and it can be a difficult one, particularly if you are certain of your innocence. After all, only a person with something to hide “lawyers up” when he isn’t even being arrested, right?
However, remember that while the great majority of police and prosecutors do not deliberately pursue persons they believe are innocent, the state’s primary goal is not to determine the truth – it is to quickly identify a perpetrator, get him or her into custody and get a conviction. The more serious and high profile the crime, the greater the pressure to “crack the case”. Additionally, investigators can use many tactics – even lying or tricks – to get information without violating any laws or constitutional protections. If they want to question you, don’t assume they have your best interests at heart.
Of course, the police do engage in routine questioning of both witnesses and possible sources of information about a crime or the persons who may have been responsible. We are not suggesting that you need legal representation if you’re certain that’s the extent of your involvement. However, if you know or suspect that there is any evidence to suggest you had involvement in the crime or have any connection to a suspect, proceed with great caution.
If you’ve become the subject of an investigation, consulting with a criminal defense attorney before you’re questioned – whether formally or informally, at the police station or elsewhere – is more often than not the best decision. Don’t let the best evidence against you be your own statement. The sooner you speak with an attorney, the sooner he or she can speak with the district attorney regarding the possible charges and help you decide on your best course of action. Early intervention by an attorney who “knows the ropes” can in some cases even prevent charges from ever being filed against you.
The attorneys at Orner Law, LLC have years of experience in representing South Florida residents who are the targets of police investigations. With offices conveniently located in Boca Raton, or Fort Lauderdale,we are just a phone call away. Don’t delay – contact us today.