HOW TO COPE WITH THE SHOCK OF BEING CHARGED WITH A CRIME.
If you find yourself charged with a crime a rush of emotions generally follows. High anxiety, fear and depression are usually the first thoughts that will cross the accused person's mind. No matter the type of charge, whether it be a low-level misdemeanor or a high-level felony the defendant generally can't help but go through these waves of emotion. So how do you deal with this influx of negative emotions and get past it? Remember you're charged with a crime and anyone you disclose information to about the crime may judge you, spread rumors about you or even worse tell the police about your disclosures. How do you ease the burden of dealing with an uncertain time all whilst keeping your mouth shut? Below is a small checklist of things to do that will make you feel better when charged with a crime.
1. Get an experienced lawyer and talk through the problem. This is the most important thing and needs to be priority number one. More than anything, talk to a lawyer immediately and don't speak with any other person including the police about the criminal charge. A lawyer will do an immediate assessment of the problem and give you advice on how to navigate the situation without getting yourself in more trouble.
2. Take a breath and focus on the problems that are right in front of your face. Be mindful of what might happen six months from now and how your actions today can impact what happens down the road, however, start by focusing on your immediate problems. Family obligations, Financial obligations and Work Obligations should be your primary focus.
A. Family Obligations: If you have children or people under your care, it's best to get a plan in place to fulfill those obligations while your case is going on. If you're going to be arrested and sit in jail until you can bond out, it's best to make sure your kids are in the care of your spouse or a trusted person. You have enough problems going on right now, having to explain to your children why you got arrested isn't another problem you need at the moment. So, get your family obligations lined out. If you take care of your grandmother full-time and you might be sitting in jail for a weekend, you better make sure someone else can help grandma while you’re gone. You don't want to be worrying about others if you end up getting arrested. Plan ahead for your family obligations.
B. Work Obligations: Just because you are charged with a crime doesn't mean your bills stop rolling in. You are going to need money to hire a lawyer and keeping steady employment is going to be more important than ever. You don't want to be arrested at work or miss a bunch of work and lose your job. Do your best to prepare for contingencies.
C. Financial Obligations: You are going to spend money that you weren't expecting. Hiring a lawyer, dealing with fees associated with court, missing days of work are all going to impact your pocketbook. It is always best to have a little extra cash readily available in case something comes up while your case is going. Remember, taking a loan out takes time and having money available can be the difference between spending time in jail and being out on bond. Don't wait until you need the money to get it. If you need to draw some money out of an investment and leave it in the bank, you'll never regret having it available.
3. Get Comfortable with uncertainty. Uncertainty is the name of the game at least at the start of any case. With any felony case until your lawyer obtains evidence in the case, sees who is prosecuting the case and finds out who the judge is that the case is assigned to there is going to be a lot of unanswered questions. Be wary of any lawyer that tells you what is going to happen on your case until that lawyer knows that information. On lower-level cases in municipal court the primary unknown information will be getting the evidence in your case the lawyer will generally already know who is prosecuting the case and the judge that will hear the case. Above all just remember, at the start of any case you will have some uncertainty, trust your lawyer and do what they tell you. Your lawyer should help calm you down and be able to give you a play-by-play of how your case is proceeding.
4. Stop worrying about the things you can't control. There are things in the legal system that you can't control so please stop worrying about the little things. You are paying your lawyer to worry about the case so focus on doing what your lawyer tells you to instead of trying to change things you can't control. The hallmark of a good lawyer is telling you when you don't need to worry and telling you when you do need to worry.
5. Always have a backup plan and prepare from the outset. You need to attack your case from multiple avenues. Always ask yourself and your lawyer, how can we beat this case entirely? Act accordingly. But at the same time, you also want to plan for a positive outcome if you lose the case. For example, if you have a drug case your lawyer should be looking at legal ways to suppress drugs that may have been found. No matter how good of a chance your lawyer tells you, that you have of winning a suppression motion and winning the case, you need to plan in case he/she is wrong, and you lose. Your backup plan should include getting a drug and alcohol evaluation and beginning treatment for any issues. That way if you lose your suppression motion or lose the case you can always have a backup plan of being able to show to the court you addressed any drug problem to mitigate any possible punishment.
The simple fact of the matter is anytime you are facing uncertainty whether it be a big life decision, a new job opportunity or a criminal case you need to have a plan of action and be prepared for contingencies. You are always better suited to do that if you have a level head and are educated about the problem at hand. Follow these easy steps and you will be set up for a favorable outcome and be able to manage your stress through a stressful situation.