“What if I didn’t do it?”
Even if you have done nothing wrong, you don’t want to go it alone in the criminal justice system.
- If the police have contacted you and want to ask you some questions;
- If you got a summons in the mail telling you to show up in court for a hearing or an arraignment on a criminal charge; or
- If you have already been to court and arraigned, but believe that once you explain the situation, you will be exonerated;
You still need a lawyer.
It is not unusual for an innocent person to be convicted, or to find himself on probation or with other serious consequences of a criminal charge. It can happen almost by accident, because of a lack of information and knowledge about the system, or it can happen by coercion. And it can happen easily when someone who is unfamiliar with the system finds himself in its grip.
If you haven’t been charged yet but the police have contacted you.
If you have been contacted by the police and they want to speak with you about a matter, you should always speak with a lawyer first. You may think you can just explain that you weren’t involved or that you didn’t do anything wrong.
The problem is that you will not know what the police already know, or think they know, or have been told by someone else. You may not even know what they are really investigating. You have no way of knowing what information is important to them. And once you start talking with them, they are trained to keep you talking, and to lead you where they want you to go. So you may start out talking about what you think is the main reason they contacted you, and wind up making statements that you think are innocuous but will be used against you later.
If you at least consult a criminal defense lawyer first, he will assess the situation and the risks that you face. He may be able to speak with the police first and find out what exactly they are investigating, what their suspicions are, and whether you should answer any questions for them. And he may be able to answer those questions on your behalf.
If you have been arrested or charged already for something you didn’t do.
Sometimes people who are innocent are nevertheless accused and charged with crimes. It happens. But if you are charged, your innocence does not at all mean you don’t need a lawyer.
The reality is, if you have been charged with a crime, you are assumed by many to be guilty. The prosecutor, the public, some judges, and, at the outset, the jury, will likely believe you are probably guilty. We like to think that truth and justice prevail, but it is not always so. People are found guilty of crimes they did not commit. It happens every day.
Once you are charged, the only person interested in your innocence will be your lawyer.
- The police will not continue to investigate; once someone is charged, they see their job as done.
- The prosecutor might offer you a “deal”, but it will involve admitting guilt.
- Your protestations of innocence will most likely be met with skepticism.
- When you explain your innocence, you will be assumed to be lying.
- No one else will be investigating, or listening to your evidence or arguments.
- If you try to explain to the judge that you are innocent, he will likely say “then go to trial.”
The system is not set up to deal fairly with innocent people.
Innocent people need a lawyer most of all.
Your lawyer will investigate the case. He will go beyond where the police ended their “investigation”. He will send an investigator to interview witnesses. He will challenge the “facts” in the police report. He will challenge the evidence the prosecutor thinks points to your guilt. He knows how to convince the judge to exclude evidence, and how to get important witnesses and other evidence into court.
The only way to ensure that your rights are defended and that you have someone fighting for you is to hire a lawyer. Make no mistake: The system is set up to convict people, not to achieve justice or discover the truth.