You have been arrested, charged with a crime, or are being investigated for a crime. Now what?
You have two very important rights at this stage: the right to a lawyer and the right to remain silent. Use them.
The Colorado Constitution, in Article II, Sections 16 and 18, promises that, “In criminal prosecutions the accused shall have the right to appear and defend in person and by counsel” and, “No person shall be compelled to testify against himself in a criminal case.”
The Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the United States Constitution promise that, “No person . . . shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself” and, “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to . . . have the assistance of counsel for his defense.”
We’ve all heard the famous Miranda warnings in movies and on TV. When you are advised of your right to remain silent and your right to an attorney, take the police up on that. And even if the police don’t advise you of these rights, exercise them.
The next step is to hire a lawyer. You may qualify for a public defender, depending on your financial circumstances. Public defenders are lawyers paid by the state. If you do not qualify for a public defender, you must select and hire a private attorney.
A word about costs: if you have to hire a lawyer, it is going to cost money. The more serious or complex your case, the more it is going to cost. This is money well spent, and you should be prepared to spend it.
When asked, you should tell your lawyer the truth. Everything you and your lawyer discuss is confidential and privileged. Your lawyer needs to know the true answers to her questions; it doesn’t help either of you to be dishonest or incomplete in your answers. You have hired this person because you trust them, so if they ask for information, tell them the truth.
You should not investigate your case yourself. But you should take some time to think about whether there are any witnesses to the incident your lawyer should talk to and whether there is any evidence your lawyer and her investigator should collect. If you have relevant injuries, for example, they need to be documented with photographs while they are fresh, and preferably not by you. Keep in mind that most of the time, witnesses must have seen or heard something themselves; people you have merely told what happened are unlikely to make good witnesses. Think about who these witnesses might be, and collect full names and good contact information to provide to your lawyer. Your lawyer and her investigator will speak to these witnesses; leave that to them.
Also think about what outcome you are hoping for in your case. If you are charged with a crime you are likely to have a variety of priorities, and you may not be able to achieve every goal you have. Is your main goal to avoid or reduce incarceration? Is it to maintain a certain job? Is it to keep your legal costs down? Is it to protect your immigration status? Think about what is most important to you in resolving your case, and tell your lawyer.
Finally, you are likely worried about what punishment you are facing. Colorado’s sentencing laws are complicated, which is why it is important to hire a lawyer to receive accurate information about the possible penalties for what you are charged with. The ultimate sentence you are facing depends on a number of things, including your charges, the facts of your case, your criminal history, and, unfortunately, the jurisdiction (location) your case is in.
A lawyer can help you navigate this frightening and stressful experience, so if you find yourself in this situation, contact Cassandra MacKenzie today.
**This does not constitute legal advice and reading this blog post does not form an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice, hire a lawyer.