CHARGED WITH A CRIME? HERE’S HOW TO NAVIGATE THE SITUATION WITH YOUR EMPLOYER
So the worst possible thing has happened. You find yourself arrested and charged with a crime. Suddenly, your entire way of life is in jeopardy. Your family, finances, reputation, employment and even freedom are now all uncertain. What do you do now? How do you fix this situation? And how in the world are you going to handle this with your employer?
This scenario happens every day to good hard-working people. In this article, we are going to set aside whether the criminal accusations against someone are true or false and solely focus on addressing what someone should do when accused of a crime and how to handle it with their employer.
This article isn’t a one-size-fits-all playbook, but more of a “these are the fires you need to recognize from the start, and here is how you put them out.” Before we jump in, I’m going to make the following assumptions: You’ve been arrested for a crime, you’ve bonded out of jail and you have your immediate basic needs met (i.e., food, water and shelter).
1. BUY SOME TIME
You are going to have a lot on your plate in the short-term. If you’ve got some flexibility at work, take the day off. Call in some favors and get a little time away from work. Make sure nothing falls through the cracks but you have bigger fish to fry at the moment.
2. IDENTIFY YOUR EXPOSURE
You need to sit down with an experienced criminal defense lawyer and identify what you are charged with and what are the possible risks/outcomes associated with those charges. Your lawyer can counsel you on how to proceed and will hopefully be able to put your mind at ease about what might happen in your case. Your lawyer should talk to you about a few specific points:
• If you have a professional license (e.g., lawyer, doctor, nurse, stock trader, etc.), you may need additional assistance with reporting requirements to the license board.
• If there is the possibility of media exposure, you need to have a plan in place. Depending on the type of crime or your profile in the community, there may need to be an action plan to address media concerns.
• Do you need to take steps to mitigate the damage? Depending on the charges and the evidence the state has, you may need to address underlying problems right now. For example, if you are charged with a drug case, it may make sense to seek out drug counseling at the early stages of your case.
• Financially prepare in whatever ways you can. Lawyers cost money and having access to funds will always put you at an advantage.
• Do exactly as your lawyer says. Make sure you have an attorney who is available for questions and advice.
3. MAKE A DECISION
Now that you’ve nailed down your exposure, you need to make a decision as to whether you are going to tell your employer or not. Before you walk into your boss’ office and blurt out the story, you need to take a step back and gather some information. If you have a trusted friend or supervisor at your work, it might make sense to discuss how these things are typically handled at the company. Secondly, you need to listen to your lawyer’s advice. The last thing you want to do is create a witness in your case who can be subpoenaed to testify about admissions you may make. So now what?
If you make the decision to tell your employer: Talk to your lawyer first and get approval before you spill the beans. If you get the OK, keep your story as short as possible — mostly stick to what the allegations are against you. It’s completely fine to say, “My lawyer asked me not to discuss the facts of the case.” The entire conversation should end with, “I’ve hired a lawyer and they feel I have a strong defense. I just wanted to keep you apprised of the situation and would be happy to keep you updated as the case progresses.”
If you make the decision not to tell your employer: Don’t tell anyone about the offense other than your lawyer. Don’t confide in a trusted work friend, don’t tell someone who used to work at the company, don’t tell anyone outside of your immediate family. Getting arrested for a crime can be a juicy piece of gossip and the last thing you want is for it to get back to your employer from anyone else other than you.
The information provided here is not legal advice and does not purport to be a substitute for advice of counsel on any specific matter. For legal advice, you should consult with an attorney concerning your specific situation.
Original Article in the Kansas City Business Journal.