You have seen in the streets, you have watched on the news, or you have heard about many people being charged with various crimes. These crimes range from burglary, assault, robbery, or even larceny-theft. Reports from the FBI reveal that in 2018 alone, over 16 million crimes were reported for various types of crimes.
These numbers are shocking, especially if you are among the charged persons, regardless of your crime. You are left wondering what to do after being charged with a crime. If you are arrested for any kind of crime, the next step you take determines how everything unfolds.
The future might seem unclear when you or your relative is being charged with a crime. A knowledgeable San Diego Criminal Attorney acquainted with the state-specific laws can go a long way to ensure that your criminal charges are reduced or dropped.
What Makes Up A Crime?
According to the Legal Information Institute (LII), a crime happens after you violate the law through negligence, omission, or overact. These criminal offenses result in punishment (fines or jail time) should you be found guilty by a court of law.
Each crime has the following three elements:
- The conduct or act also referred to as actus reus. Here, the act must entail crime elements as per the statute.
- The mental state of an offender when they commit a crime. Criminal intent/ mens rea must be shown before the offender is charged.
- The relationship between an act and its effect. This is also referred to as causation.
Your prosecutor must prove that your conduct, omission, or the physical act resulted in damage or harm and that you were in the right state of mind when committing the offense.
Criminal Offenses That You Can Be Charged With
There are four categories of crimes:
- Felonies. These crimes are more severe, and the punishment is death or many years in prison. Examples of felonies are arsons, murder attempts, homicides, rape crimes, burglary, robbery, child abuse, and pornography, and stalking.
- Misdemeanors. Misdemeanors are less serious than felonies. If you are charged with a misdemeanor, your jail-time cannot go beyond 12 months. Other common punishments include fines, probation, and community service. Misdemeanor crimes are such as traffic crimes like driving under the influence, assault, battery, larceny, perjury crimes, and violations of gun possession laws.
- Strict liability offenses. These criminal acts occur when the offenders commit crimes regardless of their mens rea (mental state). Good examples of strict liability offenses are rape and gun possession crimes.
- Inchoate offenses. Inchoate is a synonym for incomplete. Speaking of offenses, inchoate offenses occur when a defendant has started a crime but has not managed to complete. These offenses are different from intent as the crimes were begun. Attempted robbery, conspiracy, and solicitation are examples of inchoate crimes.
What Should You Do After Being Charged with A Crime?
Whether guilty or not, nobody looks forward to being charged with any type of crime. However, do you know what to do if it does happen? Do you know what to do or what words won’t put your criminal defense at stake?
Arresting officers are trained to lure you to admit for the crimes during questioning. It’s important to know, ahead of time, what to do when being charged with a crime. This knowledge helps defendants to best protect their rights.
Invoke Your Right to Remain Silent
Most charges begin with arrests. Arrests occur the instant the crime is reported by another citizen or discovered by the police. Before it happens to you, you have in films, news, or shows, the words – “you have the right to remain silent….” These words are not mere entertainment!
It’s your right to remain silent per the Fifth Amendment of the US Constitution. You don’t want to incriminate yourself before investigations are done. This right applies to any crime you are being charged with. During your arrest and before being charged, the police officers should remind you of your right, also known as ‘Miranda warning.’
Figure 2 Miranda Warning infographic
Don’t say anything to the law enforcers if there is nothing crucial to tell them until you can talk to an attorney. Staying silent is vital because, during the arrest, you are in a state of fright; hence, your memory is ‘fallible.’ Imagine telling the police your story only to remember more facts later. You appear guilty if any contradictions are noticed even if you talked under the influence of shock.
Remain Calm and Cooperate with Law Enforcers
When approached by law enforcers, interact with them politely. Always be polite and calm to avoid jeopardizing your case further. Remaining calm also applies when getting arrested – do not resist arrest. According to the National Institute of Justice, the police are authorized to use as much force needed to handcuff you and take you to jail.
Also, if you are innocent and the law enforcers arrest you wrongfully, you must cooperate. You might feel that your rights are violated, but don’t argue with the police. Note that resisting arrest makes you look guilty and could attract more charges.
Request to Know About Your Charges
Elements of the law are complex. For instance, few people know the disparity between a felony and a misdemeanor. You cannot understand, devoid of such knowledge, the weight of your charges or even the possible punishment when you get convicted.
Request to have your charges read again should you not hear them the first time. You should be aware of the exact charges against you. You can only fight for freedom or against the charges if you know the law you or a loved one has violated.
See, if convicted for serious crimes like murder or homicide, you risk losing some of your rights after completing jail time. For example, you don’t have the right to own a gun, to vote, to get a professional license, or to serve in the military.
It is recommendable to know the exact crime you are charged with and the gravity of the charges.
Ask to Speak to An Attorney
After the law enforcers tell you what exact charges you face, request to contact your criminal attorney. This is the most important step when looking to defend yourself against charges. Your criminal attorney understands the law better; hence, the ideal defense against your criminal charges.
Every second that passes while you are in custody and without getting in touch with a criminal attorney hurts your case. Having said that, the state offers you an attorney for free if you cannot afford one. But, don’t put much trust in public defenders as they are often overworked; thus, you cannot give your case the attention you want.
If possible, hire a private criminal attorney. A dedicated attorney helps you know better and invoke your rights. Also, a personal lawyer helps you not to fall prey for an easy conviction.
See, prosecutors understand at depth law technicalities, which you cannot understand. These prosecutors can lure you on agreeing to plea bargains that appear like better options and later have you convicted.
A private attorney advises you on what deals not to agree on, especially those that appear to work against you. Understand that prosecutors and police alike want you convicted; you want a reputable criminal attorney to help secure your freedom.
Don’t Post Bail Before Talking to An Attorney
When a loved one is arrested, the majority rush to post bail. This is not always the right thing to do before seeking advice from a criminal attorney.
According to the Eight Amendment of the US Constitution, there are criminal offenses and instances you cannot get bail for repeated offenses, severe crimes, flight risk, and a threat to society. If you are not sure of the severity of the crime, talk to your attorney.
Other ways an attorney comes in handy before posting bail include:
- Evaluating specific facts of your charges and establishing whether you can get a lower bail or even get freed without posting bail.
- Determining if your charges may get dropped by the jury. If the court drops your charges at the arraignment, you or your loved one is released without the need to post bail.
- Lowering the bondsman fee. If you post bail before hiring an attorney, 10% of the bail amount goes to the bondsman. The bondsman fee is not returned after your case is dissolved. But, if you engage an attorney, you are assured of reduced bondsman fee to eight percent.
- Lowering the risk of losing bail bond fees. Your attorney advises when they establish that the judge would raise bail when you appear in court. If you had posted bail before arraignment, and the bail is raised during the arraignment, you risk losing your money and have you or your family member returned to custody. In this particular incident, you lose all your bail money.
After arrest, before calling your loved one seeking help with raising cash bail, talk to a reputable criminal attorney. That way, you and your loved ones save thousands, if not hundreds of dollars.
Be Honest with Your Attorney
Honesty is always the best policy. Inconsistencies are avoided when you offer accurate information to your lawyer. Accurate details help your criminal defense attorney to prepare for the case well and offer an effective defense. That said, ensure you are 100 percent truthful to your attorney throughout the whole criminal process.
Any information you share with your lawyer is confidential and no need to fret when telling them the truth. According to the United States Code: Title 28a, Rule 502, your affiliation is secured by the attorney-client privilege rule. Should your attorney make a blunder of sharing any facts about your criminal case, the state bar should punish them. The attorney also risks having their license to practice law revoked.
Offer your attorney every little information linking to your case. The more honest you are, the more effective your criminal defense lawyer will be when representing you in a court of law.
Don’t Discuss Your Charges Openly
Be cautious when speaking to friends and family if you are facing criminal charges and out of custody on bail. Unlike talks with your criminal attorney, those with close friends and loved ones are not protected by the law. The friends can tell other friends about your charges intentionally or unintentionally.
Spreading of the details of your case, whether correct or not, can easily jeopardize its progress. If your accuser or prosecutor gets wind of these details, they can use these against you.
But the law treats conversations between spouses differently. For instance, the California Rules of Evidence (Evidence Code Section 970) rule allows spouses to choose whether to testify against their partner. The court has no power to compel your partner to testify against you in a case.
Also, the law protects conversations between married people. Your partner is not allowed to disclose any talks about your criminal case. An example of such law is the California Evidence Code Section 980.
Make Notes When You Can
Writing down every little detail relating to your charges is imperative. If you are in police custody, request for a paper and pen and begin taking notes. Record all that you can remember about the events that led to your arrest. However, you should avoid noting down any statements that can incriminate you.
It is safer to offer your attorney correct details if they are still fresh in your mind. And, this is possible if you document the turn of events while still in custody. Other important information to add to your writings is the location you were in and who you were with during the arrest or when the crime happened.
The importance of document correct details is because the prosecution team begins gathering every piece of information about you the instant you are arrested. The information gathered by the prosecution is used to build a case and evidence to sentence you.
List Down Possible Witnesses
As you write down your statement while in police custody, you should list down the contact details of anyone who could testify in your favor.
Begin by noting down all witnesses’ names who were present when and where the crime occurred. With this list, your attorney can contact the witnesses to find out if their side of the story concurs with yours.
You want to gather witnesses or anybody you are in good rapport with; the odds are that these could testify to your great conduct. During court proceedings, your criminal attorney can use your witnesses to prove your innocence.
The presumption of innocence is a respected legal principle in the US. According to Nolo’s Law Dictionary, the juror cannot convict you of a crime until proof is found beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty. This means you remain innocent until proven guilty.
You are needed to gather concrete evidence to prove your innocence. At times the arresting officers take you in without an arrest or a search warrant. In this case, you should gather evidence and pass it to your criminal attorney.
When seeking proof of innocence, you can find evidence that could incriminate you. If a search warrant is issued later, don’t attempt to destroy the evidence. Nothing goes hidden forever, and you appear guilty if found hiding evidence.
The best thing to do is speak to your criminal attorney. They are experienced with the complexities of criminal processes and can offer advice on the ideal step to take. It is possible to uphold your innocence even if the evidence against you surfaces later with the help of an attorney.
Don’t Contact Your Accuser
Stay away from your accuser, especially if you know them. It’s tempting to try working things out one-on-one, but this attempt can complicate your case further.
The prosecution can use anything you say to the accuser against you. Since you don’t understand the law like the juror, you might say something to the accuser, making you appear very guilty. The prosecutor can also charge you with threatening your victim or accuser.
Use your attorney should you need anything communicated to the accuser. These are your only solace and go-between.
Attend Court Proceedings When Possible
Unless you are charged with felony crimes, you may choose to have your lawyers make appearances in court on your behalf. However, it is important that you also make time and attend several case proceedings to confirm that your attorney is doing the job well.
Talk to your criminal attorney and draw a calendar to fit the court’s schedule for your criminal case. Use automated reminders on your smartphone or laptop if need be. This will ensure you don’t forget the court dates.
However, if you are charged with a felony crime, the law requires you to attend all case proceedings, from arraignment, preliminary hearing, during plea bargains, during a trial when the evidence against you is presented in court, and when the juror makes ruling on your case.
If charged with a felony crime and you fail to appear per court dates, a warrant of arrest is issued. This not only makes you look guilty but also complicates your case further.
Find a San Diego Criminal Attorney Near Me
Being charged with any type of crime can have life-changing repercussions. If you don’t know what to do when being charged with a crime in San Diego, engaging a criminal attorney is the ideal step. You want an aggressive criminal attorney and one with an excellent track record.
Our criminal attorneys at the San Diego Criminal Attorney have successfully defended many clients who have faced various criminal charges in San Diego for many years. We are ready to listen to your story and help build an effective criminal defense strategy. We can help in having your criminal charges dropped or lessened. Call us today at 619-880-5474.