You’ve probably heard countless criminal defense attorneys say that people should “call immediately.” But it’s one thing to say people should call immediately and another for them to be able to start dialing a phone while a police officer slaps handcuffs around their wrist. So when should you (or can you) call a defense lawyer in a given situation?
How Soon Can You Call a Lawyer After You’ve Been Arrested
When you’ve been arrested, whether for murder or DUI, you’ll normally be brought into the station and booked. During this time, you can invoke your 5th Amendment right and insist on having your lawyer present before answering any questions besides those related to your identity. But you will not actually be able to call your attorney until after you have been booked. If you do not have an attorney already, you can call a relative or loved one and ask them to find a lawyer on your behalf. If you have also been given the option of posting bail based on the state’s standard bail schedule, this is also when you will be able to do so prior to your arraignment.
It’s worth noting that things are a little different during the current coronavirus pandemic as many people charged with crimes are being given misdemeanor citations, rather than being arrested and booked. This means you can call a lawyer as soon as the officer finishes writing your citation. Obviously, you may want to go to a safer or more comfortable location based on where you were cited, but otherwise you should call your attorney as soon as you can, though you still may want to take the opportunity to write down all the details you can recall of your arrest as these small details may help your case later on.
Should You Call a Lawyer Before Being Interrogated?
Absolutely. Your Miranda rights guarantee you the right to contact an attorney before answering questions in an interrogation and you should absolutely take advantage of this right. While police often try to informally interview suspects without placing them under arrest so they do not have to Mirandarize the suspect, you can and should refuse to answer any questions without your lawyer present.
Although the police do not have to provide you the opportunity to call your attorney in these situations, since you are not under arrest, you are also free to leave and to refuse to answer questions. If police really want to question you, then they may provide you the opportunity to call your attorney and wait until they arrive, or they may place you under arrest and you will be legally guaranteed the right to have your lawyer present during any future interrogations.
Even if you want to help police solve a crime, it’s still best to have your attorney present when answering questions to help ensure you do not say something that could be used against you if you later become a suspect.
When to Call an Attorney When You’re Under Investigation
If police have told you that you are under investigation for a crime, it’s time to contact a lawyer. If you believe you’re under investigation for a crime, you should probably get in touch with an attorney. This is particularly true if police contacted you about a crime or if you believe you’re the most likely suspect in a serious crime.
Even if you’re not sure you’re under investigation, but know that you committed a crime, it can be beneficial to hire a lawyer ahead of time to protect your rights in advance. In many cases, this can help you avoid having charges filed against you later on.
When to Call an Attorney After Someone Accuses You of a Crime
If someone has accused you of a crime, you should try to avoid talking to them as much as possible and call a lawyer. This way if they call the police and attempt to file charges, you will have someone already on your side to protect your interests. An attorney can also help mediate between you and the accuser in the case of a misunderstanding or minor property damage where things can be resolved to both party’s satisfaction without police intervention.
On sexual assault and child molestation cases, it is particularly critical you call and hire a lawyer immediately after someone accuses you of committing the crime. Often there are no witnesses in these cases, so the police often set up a recorded call between the victim and the suspect in order try to get the suspect to admit committing the offense. Obtaining the advice of a lawyer before this call can and avoiding conversations with the accuser without having an attorney present can literally make the difference between freedom and spending decades in prison.
When to Call a Lawyer Regarding Property Searches
Always refuse to let police search your property without a warrant. This also means you should refuse to let them into your home since they do not need a warrant if they see evidence of a crime in plain sight. In cases where police have requested to search your property, you should call a lawyer immediately after the police leave.
Again, even if you want to help police solve a crime you didn’t commit, it’s best to have an attorney present to help ensure your rights are protected and that you do not inadvertently provide them with evidence of a crime.
When the police have a search warrant, ask to view it and review relevant information such as the address and the permitted time of the search before allowing them inside. If the search warrant is valid, you are required to let the officers in, even if you do not consent to the search. If the warrant is wrong, let them know your issue with the warrant and state that you do not consent to a search. If they still want to perform the search, then allow them to do so because interfering could get you arrested, but take note of the problem and be sure to provide this information to your attorney.
Ask if you can watch the search and, if so, document everything you can by filming and photographing the activities taking place. If they say you cannot witness the search, ask if you can leave before leaving the premises because the officers may also have a warrant for your arrest or may want to search you before you leave. Either way, do not answer any questions other than those relating to your identity and call your lawyer as soon as you are allowed to do so.
Should You Call Your Attorney Before Committing a Crime?
This is one case where you should wait to contact a lawyer. In fact, telling your attorney about a crime you plan to commit in the future is one of the rare exemptions in lawyer/client confidentiality, meaning he will have to tell the court about your conversation if the crime is carried out.
You can ask general, hypothetical questions, for example, “what is the monetary value that determines if something is petty theft and grand theft?” But if you say something along the lines of “I want to start robbing local shops, but I want to make sure I am not charged with grand theft, how much can I take without crossing that line,” this conversation would not be privileged any more like other discussions you may have with your attorney.
Essentially, the best time to call your lawyer is always “as soon as possible,” but only after a crime has already been completed. If you need to call an attorney at this point in time, Peter Liss is always available 24/7. Call (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free initial consultation.