When a crime occurs, the law enforcement agencies are sometimes unaware of who committed the alleged crime. So, law enforcement officers will investigate to collect enough evidence that the District Attorney uses to charge you. If you know that you are under investigation, you need to identify a criminal defense law firm that will also investigate the allegations. A law firm is permitted to investigate at the request of their client before charges are filed.
The defense law firm aims at collecting evidence that persuades the D.A or prosecutor in your favor. This might convince the prosecutor not to file the charges due to lack of evidence, or to charge you with a lesser offense. Contact us at the San Diego Criminal Attorney if you are under investigation for a criminal offense.
Understanding Pre-File Investigation
The first step of a pre-file investigation is carried out by the police officers or detectives assigned to the particular crime. For instance, if a person is found dead, detectives will investigate to determine the cause of death. If death is natural, their relative is traced and informed of their demise.
However, if there is evidence that the death was a homicide, detectives will start gathering evidence on the crime. Through the investigations, they may zero in on you as the main suspect of the crime. During their investigation, they will interview you, your colleagues, family, friends, among others. When you find out you are a subject of the inquiry, you do not have to answer the detective’s questions. However, cooperating with them in the presence of your lawyer is critical to your case.
When made aware that you are under investigation for a particular crime, finding a criminal defense lawyer is critical. Your lawyer, in most cases, will start gathering evidence as well by investigating the crime. The information or evidence collected is aimed at either exonerating you from the wrongdoing or persuading the prosecutor to charge you with a lesser offense. For instance, if you are under investigation for murder, you may not have been the one that committed it, but you know who did it. Because you were at the crime scene when the offense occurred, the prosecutor may be looking at charging you with murder.
However, through your defense attorney, investigations may present evidence that you are innocent. Furthermore, the investigations may reveal you were not aware that murder was to be committed by the other party, although you were present. When the defense firm presents its investigation to the D.A or the prosecutor, they hope to persuade them not to charge you with murder. Instead, a lesser charge should be preferred or no criminal charge at all. This is what is referred to as Pre-File Investigation. As the investigation is carried out, the firm or your attorney may:
Question witnesses that have already talked with the detectives
Find other witnesses to interview
Investigate background information or records
Find details that discredit the accuser and create doubts in their story
Seek expert opinion
After completing the investigation, you hope that the evidence collected is sufficient to show that you never committed the offense. The defense attorney schedules an appointment with the prosecutor or District Attorney for:
Presenting the collected evidence or information
Analyzing the case and its merits
After the meeting and analyzing the information presented, the D.A will take any of the decisions below:
Charge the suspect with a criminal offense
Close the investigation by filing no charges
Ask the detectives to investigate further and collect more evidence that is presented to the D.A
It is essential to understand that a prosecutor depends on the police report to file charges against you. In most cases, police reports are biased or do not present the whole picture of the crime. For this reason, having an attorney carry out a pre-file investigation is critical in finding out the facts or exposing information not presented.
Benefits of Having a Pre-file Investigation
Although some people think a pre-file investigation is a waste of money, it is not the case. The benefits of having this investigation outweigh the disadvantages. Some of the benefits include:
The prosecutor might not charge the suspect with the crime – The most important aspect of getting a conviction is leaving no doubt in the jury or judge. When the prosecutor has no strong case against you or the evidence they have is circumstantial, it will leave doubts with the jurors. A prosecutor will not attempt to pursue a case where there is no sufficient evidence, but seeks concrete evidence before charging a suspect. If a suspect gets charged with no adequate evidence, the jury may be doubtful of the evidence provided and declare the suspect not guilty.
The prosecutor may prefer lesser charges – For charges against a person to stick, substantial evidence must be presented. After a crime has been committed, the investigating officers may not be sure of the part the suspect played in the offense. When there is no direct evidence linking the suspect to the crime, the pre-file investigation eliminates wrongful charges.
For instance, Peter is accused by Lucy of sexual battery, according to PEN 243.4. When Peter learns of the allegations, he conducts a criminal defense attorney to investigate the allegations before charges are leveled against him. During the investigations, his lawyers discover that Lucy has previously brought the same claims against other people that were dismissed as based on falsehoods. The lawyer presents the discoveries to the prosecutor showing Lucy as a liar on numerous occasions. The D.A or prosecutor will review the evidence presented and decide on whether to charge Peter with a sexual battery.
When Should You Have an Attorney Carry out a Pre-filing Investigation?
It is generally advised to seek legal representation when faced with a criminal case as early as possible. It is also to your advantage to ask your lawyer to start pre-file investigations on the particular case soon. The benefits of beginning these investigations immediately are:
The circumstances or the situation is still fresh in the minds
At the earlier stages, witnesses are more comfortable to locate, question, and interview
Evidence is not likely to have been interfered with earlier, but with delay, tampering may happen
Even with these advantages, some suspects may challenge why an investigation should be done. However, the value of pre-file research makes it necessary to get it conducted. When investigation is carried out, it may eliminate the filing of charges or reduction of those you will face.
Other benefits of carrying out a pre-file investigation are:
Your attorney may discover that the police did not have a probable cause to stop you
The Miranda rights were not read for you
The person making the allegations is known to cause false reports
The officer that arrested you is reputed to engage in misconduct
All these things are beneficial to you when suspected of a crime. Additionally, these are not easily discovered, requiring time to find them out. As a result, it is advisable to begin pre-file investigations early to ensure you and your attorneys have sufficient time to gather evidence.
What to Look for in a Lawyer to Carry out Pre-file Investigations
When suspected of a crime, one of the critical goals is avoiding getting charged with the offense. Avoiding getting charged results in preventing wrongful convictions. For this reason, when you are accused of a crime and need a law firm or a lawyer to carry out pre-file investigations, you should look out for the following:
When a lawyer or a firm is experienced in carrying out pre-file investigations, it means they understand what to look for regarding the particular crime. He or she knows the right questions to ask the witnesses, the experts to involve, and the shortcuts that may be used by the investigating officers. For instance, if a person you quarreled with suddenly dies out of suspected poisoning, you will likely be the first suspect. However, with the help of your lawyer, pre-file investigations can reveal the source of the poison was not you, or the cause of the death was not poison.
An experienced attorney knows the investigators or experts to engage and find out if the deceased had other enemies, what they last ate, and where or who they were with, among others. This will eliminate you from getting charged for the offense and even a wrongful conviction for the crime.
Not every attorney or law firm can carry out pre-file investigations. Find out if your attorney or law firm has experts that they work with and if they have an internal investigator. Some firms or lawyers also have a working relationship with an investigating firm to assist them in gathering evidence that exonerates their client. A firm or a lawyer that has this indicates the seriousness in which they take your case.
Relationship with Prosecutors and Police
A lawyer need not be an enemy of the law enforcement agencies. Note that there must be a good working relationship between your attorney and the prosecutor or police. This is critical when there is a need to share evidence collected to help you with the case.
The Criminal Process
Before engaging a lawyer or a defense firm to carry out pre-file investigations, you must first be accused of an offense or be under investigation. Typically, a person can go to the police and report that you have committed a crime. However, the police will not arrest you immediately until an investigation is carried out.
Similarly, a crime can be committed where no immediate suspect is established. However, the police start piecing out the events that followed the offense and determine people who are likely to benefit from the crime. Further investigations are carried out to narrow down the real offenders based on the evidence.
When you know you are under investigation, it is time to call your attorney to initiate a pre-file investigation. When this is not done on time, and the detectives find evidence that links you to the crime, they will report to the D.A about their findings. When the D.A or prosecutor is convinced, there is sufficient evidence to charge you, an arrest warrant is issued.
Typically, when you are arrested, you are supposed to be held in custody until your case is heard and determined. Always remember that an arrest only happens when the police have a probable reason for your arrest. Once you are arrested, your lawyer can persuade the D.A to reduce your bail or get you released on your recognizance. This means you promise to be in court on the day of your arraignment. Depending on the crime you are accused of, your attorney can petition the court to let you go without posting bail. If this happens, you will save lots of money that you would have paid to be released.
After getting charged with an offense, you will be told the bail amount to pay, or you will have to wait for the scheduled arraignment where bail is also set. During the appearance, the judge will advise you on the charges leveled against you and explain your constitutional rights. You may be charged with an infraction, a felony, or a misdemeanor. During the arraignment, witnesses and evidence are not presented, but dates for the hearing are set.
At this arraignment, the judge may set bail to allow you to continue with the case while out of custody. Your lawyer can persuade the court or judge to issue a reasonable bail amount. Sometimes if the bail amount is too high, your lawyer will have to file a petition notifying the prosecutor that you intend to seek a bail reduction. The prosecutor is permitted to contest the cut, and the judge delivers his or her ruling on the matter.
During the arraignment, you may be required to enter a plea. You may either plead guilty or not guilty. Sometimes, a suspect may not contest the charges. This means you have not admitted being guilty of the offense but will acknowledge the elements of the crime have been met. A suspect can also ask for a continuance, especially when they had no attorney to enable them to engage one.
An arrest and subsequent prosecution can be avoided with a pre-file investigation. Instead of waiting to be charged and proving your innocence, you can save time, money, and your reputation through a pre-file inquiry. During this stage, evidence may be collected that will result in you not getting charged for the crime, and allowing for the real perpetrator to be found.
Suspects Frequently Asked Questions
When you are accused of a crime, you will have many concerns and questions. Some of these are:
Which Law Enforcement Agencies or Officers will Question Me?
Depending on the crime you are accused of committing, you may be questioned by different officers such as the local police, federal agents, homeland security agents, drug enforcement administration officers, or others.
Must I Answer Questions by the Law Enforcement Agents?
The simple answer to this is no. You have a right constitutionally not to answer, and it will not be used against you. Before you agree to answer any questions, you must consult your attorney for clarification. If the officers come to question you, you are free to ask them if you are a suspect in a crime. If their answer is in the affirmative, you may ask for the specifics of the crime and discuss it with your lawyer. When you are afraid to be falsely accused, your attorney can suggest pre-file investigations to eliminate charges from being brought against you.
Are there Exceptions to the Questions I Can Answer before Consulting an Attorney?
Law enforcement officers can stop you on the road or at any place if they are investigating you. If detained while driving, an officer can ask for your identification or vehicle registration. You must provide these standard things when asked, but you do not have to answer any questions. For instance, if an officer asks you if you have been drinking, you have a constitutional right not to answer the question.
What Happens if I Speak to a Police Officer Without Talking to My Lawyer?
You can speak to an officer when questioned. However, it is critical to understand that anything you say to them will likely be used to strengthen the case against you or others. You must know that lying to an officer is a criminal offense, but refusing to talk until your lawyer is present is not. If you have started answering questions, you can stop at any time and ask to get a lawyer. You can then consult your attorney and initiate pre-file investigations to counter the evidence against you.
What Happens if you are Threatened with a Subpoena to Answer Questions?
Sometimes law enforcement officers can threaten a suspect with a subpoena to answer their questions. This should not frighten you. Instead, you should insist on talking to your attorney first. Remember that the officers are under no obligation not to use what you tell them against you. When you receive a subpoena, or you are threatened with one, consulting your attorney is critical to initiate pre-file investigations. Your lawyer will also guide you on how to answer questions to avoid incriminating yourself.
What Should I do if an Officer Stops me on the Street?
Cooperating with an officer is always to your advantage. Do not walk away or run from an officer. Instead, stop and listen. If they ask you questions you are uncomfortable answering, tell them that you are not going to talk to them. Ask them if you are free to go and if so, walk away slowly. An officer can also indicate that you are not open to go, meaning you are detained and could be arrested. An officer can also pat you down if he or she has a probable suspicion.
Through all this, you do not have to talk to them, but instead, call your attorney and inform them you are under investigation. This should initiate a pre-file investigation to gather evidence that can cause you not to face criminal charges.
What Happens if Stopped in your Car?
When officers are investigating you for a crime, they can stop you even in your car. If you are with a passenger, you may be separated for questioning by the officers. Neither you nor your passenger is obligated to answer the questions asked. Additionally, the officers are not allowed by the law to search your vehicle without a warrant or you allowing them. You do not have to enable the officers to search your car. Instead, once you know what they suspect, talk to your attorney.
What Happens when I am Arrested?
When you are arrested on suspicion of a crime, the arresting officer must tell you your rights. Even when your lawyer is still carrying out pre-file investigations, it does not stop an arrest. However, you have a right to your attorney, who will come with the gathered evidence and discuss it with the officers and the prosecutor. If the law enforcement officers are convinced that more investigation needs to be carried out, you will be let free. Your lawyer will continue with the pre-file investigations to avoid wrongful charges.
Contact a Criminal Attorney Near Me
Many people get charged with crimes daily. When you least expect it, you may also be accused of a criminal offense that can lead to charges. Sometimes, you may be innocent or framed for a crime you never committed. In such a case, the evidence against you can be overwhelming, resulting in wrongful convictions. When faced with a criminal allegation, an experienced lawyer in pre-file investigations is critical in avoiding a criminal charge. Contact the San Diego Criminal Attorney at 619-880-5474 to conduct a pre-file investigation on your behalf.