How to try to avoid being charged with a crime after you've been accused: Getting out in-front of a criminal charge.
First of all, don't commit crimes. This is the number one way to avoid being charged. Secondly, this article isn't going to be your typical "how to," on how not to get charged with a crime by repeatedly telling you not to talk to the police if they show up asking questions. The baseline for this article will be what happens when you find out you are being investigate for a crime. We are NOT starting with the moment after you have committed a crime in this article. That article would involve strict instructions not to talk to the police and contacting a lawyer as soon as possible. In this article, we are starting with law enforcement showing up to your door or giving you a call to ask questions about a criminal allegation.
Knock, Knock. There's someone at the door. You're caught off guard and walk over and a police officer is at the door. "Hello, officer, is everything ok?" Mr. Smith I'd like to talk to you about...
- We have you on video leaving a Dillards without paying for...
- You went on a date with Jane last week and she's made a report...
- A vehicle matching your car's description got in an accident last night and someone was seriously hurt...
- You're child went to school and the teacher saw some bruising...
You get the picture. It's the moment when you find out, whether you've done something wrong or not, that you are possibly in trouble. You take the detectives card and tell them you should probably speak to a lawyer before you answer any questions. But now what? A rush of thoughts comes to your head about how your life is possibly going to change and how do you go about getting out of this possible trouble? You start calling lawyers and many of them tell you:
"There's not a lot we can do right now, give me a call back if you get charged" - Dumb Lawyer
Wait and see? Your entire life is on the line and you get a, wait and see? If you're facing a serious criminal accusation the last thing you want to do is "wait and see." You need to be proactive. If you have any chance of stopping the State from charging you with a crime you need to pursue that chance. Depending on the type of crime, just being charged with the crime can have such a dramatic impact on your life it can be devastating. Even if you are 100% innocent of the crime, depending on the severity of the crime or your position in the community your life can be dramatically altered. Many people that are accused of terrible crimes never recover, even if found innocent. So what do you do now?
1. You have to start gathering information that is relevant to your defense but also relevant to discrediting the accuser's statement. Information is key at this stage.
Now the type of information you gather is going to be relevant to what type of case you are facing. If you are accused of hit and run accident from the night before. You should start by gathering information about where you were during the accident. Recipes from a grocery store across town from the accident, a parking pass from the Royals game, video from the Quicktrip up the street or a Ring doorbell camera from your neighbor's house. All of these might be helpful in proving where your car was during the accident. Also, having an investigator go and interview people that you were with that night might be useful. If there is an allegation that drugs or alcohol might be a factor it might make sense to go get a drug or alcohol test showing that you have nothing in your system. Even hiring a polygraph operator and submitting to a polygraph might be useful.
What you're doing here is arming your lawyer with the tools they need to get in-front of the prosecutor before a case is charged and present some evidence that they might not be aware of. Evidence that helps exonerate you or explain inconsistencies that a prosecutor might not be aware of can be the difference between getting charged and not getting charged. The more information you have the better picture you will have about the allegations against you. Information is vital at this stage.
Information gathering at this stage is different depending on the type of charge you are facing. What info you gather for a "hit and run" allegation is different from what information you gather after a sexual assault allegations. If you believe you might be charged with a crime involving another person it might make sense to start finding out who is making the accusation against you and who they are. Hiring a private investigator to do a social media dump on the accuser to see what they are posting about or performing a criminal background check on them to see if they've ever been convicted of a crime of dishonestly can be useful. Having an investigator seek out any other similar allegations they may have made against another person can also be very useful.
2. If you have some exposure you need to start mitigating the damage.
Plan for the worst but hope for the best. But hope isn't enough. You have to take action on the information you have if you want to convince a prosecutor not to charge you or charge you with a lesser crime than they possibly could. Here are some examples:
|Possible Criminal Charge||Steps you can take to mitigate the damage.||How you use it with the Prosecution.|
1. Save up money to pay back a loss.
2. Document external problems that can explain the theft. (Drug/Gambling Addiction)
3. Counselling for impulse control.
|Approach the prosecution with an explanation and cause for the behavior. Show corrective action so that this behavior won't repeat, make the victim whole for their loss. Depending on the jurisdiction this may be a no-charge or filing of a lesser charge.|
1. Document external problems that can explain drug use. (Drug/Gambling Addiction)
2. Get a drug use evaluation from an approved provider.
3. Follow the recommendation of the provider.
4. Start taking voluntary Drug tests ever week to prove abstinence.
|Approach the prosecution with the eval and the explanation on why a drug user might have gotten out of control and started distributing. Show that the behavior causing the violation has been corrected and sobriety is being maintained. Depending on the jurisdiction and charges this could result in filing of a misdemeanor instead of a felony.|
1. If there is an element of drug and alcohol use to the charge get a drug and alcohol evalution and comply with the recomendations.
2. Get a domestic violence assessment and start on any classes that are recomended.
3. Get in couselling for the domestic realtionship.
4. Interview the victim
|Approach the Prosecution with a the victim statement and the counseling. Explain this is a one-off situation and the family has it under control. Show that due to addressing the underying problem this is not likely to happen again. Depending on the jurisdiction this could be a no-charge or lesser charge.|
The Final Word: If you've gotten wind that you may be charged with a crime, now is not the time to bury your head in the sand and hope that it will go away. With the advice of your lawyer, there are steps you can take right now to possibly avoid getting charged or possibly avoid being charged with a more serious crime. Now is the time to act strategically.