How to handle being accused of a crime

Published 7:28 pm Sunday, March 18, 2018

By Jason Swindle

Senior partner, criminal defense attorney at Swindle Law Group

People are accused of a crime every day. Some people are guilty. Some are innocent.  Some are in a “gray area.” Many folks think that only “criminals” are accused of crimes or “it will never happen to me.” The truth is that it can happen to anyone. I have seen people of almost every age, race, level of wealth, level of power, political affiliation, reputation, career and gender accused and arrested for a variety of crimes. If this happens to you, it is critical that the following rules be followed:

1. Don’t say or do anything. Less is more. Anything you say (and sometimes do) can and usually will be used against you. If a law enforcement officer pulls you over on the road and wants you to perform field sobriety tests, arrives at your door asking questions about what you may have done, or asks that you come to the station for an interview, you must be respectful and relax.

Politely decline the officer’s request for you to take part in field sobriety tests (they are always voluntary), do not try to explain what may have happened, or agree to an interview. On some occasions, an interview may be beneficial, but you must have your lawyer present.   It is a rare day when someone talks their way out of being arrested.

2. Find a criminal defense attorney. The minute you find out that you are being accused of a crime, make an appointment with a criminal defense attorney. Choose an attorney you are comfortable with, trust, and know is experienced. Your conversations with your attorney are protected under the attorney-client privilege. He or she must know everything; good and bad.

a. Speaking with the investigating officer — If the criminal defense attorney has a good professional relationship with the officer, the attorney may be able to help in several ways. Some of these include increasing the chances of getting a bond, obtaining the officer’s perspective of what may have happened, and/or providing the officer with your perspective regarding the allegations. 

b. Gathering evidence – Some situations require the services of a skilled private investigator, polygraph examiner, accident reconstructionist or other expert.

c. Negotiating with prosecutors — Negotiation is never an act of weakness if done properly. For instance, if the accusation lacks credible evidence, your attorney may be able to get the charges dropped, reduced, modified, etc.