How to Handle Criminal Charges if You’re an Innocent Defendant
Many people mistakenly believe that only guilty people are arrested and charged with crimes. Unfortunately, that’s not even close to true. Innocent people are suspected and accused of crimes all the time. And, many are convicted. It’s been estimated that between 2% and 10% of people in prison in the United States are innocent. With a prison population of nearly 2,000,000, that means there could be between 40,000 and nearly 200,000 people serving time for crimes they didn’t commit.
If the police want to question you or if you’ve already been arrested or charged with a crime, it’s critical that you know how to protect yourself from the beginning. The best way to accomplish this is to seek representation from an experienced criminal defense attorney right away.
Attorney Matthew Lufrano has dedicated his legal practice to representing people who have been accused of crimes in Florida. The Florida Bar has recognized him as a Board Certified Expert in Criminal Trial Law, and he has tried dozens of criminal cases before Florida juries. That’s just the type of experience you need on your side if you’ve been wrongly accused of a crime.
Unfortunately, many people believe because they are innocent they have nothing to worry about and as a result significant and unfortunate mistakes may follow.
Mistakes Innocent Defendants Make
While every case is different and in some cases speaking to the police may be helpful, it is always best to speak with an attorney before speaking to members of law enforcement. An attorney can advise you about your rights, can be present for any discussion with the police, and can assist you in ending such a meeting if needed.
Unfortunately the first and often most significant mistake most innocent defendants make is talking to the police without first consulting with an attorney. In such situations people who know they haven’t done anything wrong, often believe that simply telling their story will clear things up. However, police and prosecutors don’t always interpret things the way one expects them to. They don’t always believe what they are told.
Think Twice Before Talking to Police
The urge to set the record straight is strong, but it can backfire–even if you’re innocent. Here are just a few reasons you should generally keep quiet until you’ve talked with an attorney:
- Any and all statements you make can and will be used against you.
- The stress of the request to talk to the police may impair your attention to their questions as well as your memory of an event.
- Minor inconsistencies, even accidental ones, can be raised later on to make it look like your word can’t be trusted.
- Statements you make may be taken out of context and used against you later, or what you said may be paraphrased or misinterpreted
- Innocent actions may be incriminating in ways you don’t understand
You have a right to remain silent, but if you waive it (explicitly or by talking), then whatever you say can come back to haunt you.
Understand the Police are Not On Your Side
It’s important to understand that while police officers serve a very important role in our society, when investigating any crime they are not on the side of a suspect. This remains true even if the police officer seems friendly. If you are a suspect in a crime, a police officer may say things to you like, “I can’t help you unless I know the whole story” or “I want to get this wrapped up so you can get out of here.”
They may also find points of identification, like having gone to the same school or knowing how stressful it is to be a divorced dad or being frustrated with your employer. Never lose sight of the fact that their goal is to gather evidence. And, for many, it’s not to gather evidence objectively. Instead, the “investigation” may be geared entirely toward supporting their theory.
Know Your Rights
When you’re being questioned by the police, it’s not always clear whether you’re free to go. So don’t be afraid to ask. Police may just start asking questions, and you may feel like you’re obligated to stay and talk to them. But simply asking if you’re free to go can clarify things a great deal. If you’re not then you want to speak to someone who has only your best interests in mind and that person is your local criminal defense attorney.
If you are being detained, let police know that you would like to speak with an attorney, and then stop talking until you’ve received some advice from an experienced Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer.
If you’re a suspect in an ongoing investigation or you’ve been arrested, both the prosecution and law enforcement will be very interested in your next moves. Panic responses, such as fleeing, destroying potential evidence, or directly contacting potential witnesses should all be avoided. Such panic responses will not only hurt your pending case, but may also lead to your prosecution for new crimes, like evidence tampering.
When you’re facing criminal charges for something you didn’t do it’s more important than ever to remain calm and think strategically. Calmly and politely assert your rights and then arrange to speak with a local criminal lawyer as soon as possible.
Talk to a Jacksonville Defense Attorney
The best time to talk with a criminal defense lawyer is as soon as you are arrested, find out you’ve been charged with a crime, or learn that you are under investigation. Your attorney will have the best opportunity to fully defend you if you’ve avoided making any missteps before you were represented.
If you’ve already given a statement, the next best time to contact a seasoned criminal defense lawyer is right now. Your criminal defense lawyer can advise you on your next steps, serve as a buffer between you and law enforcement, assess the strengths and weaknesses in the case against you, and perhaps even suppress your statement and/or other evidence gathered. But, there are no guarantees: not every discussion with police before you’re represented violates your rights, and that evidence may be used against you. So, no matter where you are in the process, it’s best to stop talking until you’ve consulted a lawyer.
We want to make it as easy as possible to take that step. That’s why Matthew Lufrano offers free consultations to people who have been charged with crimes in and around Jacksonville. You can schedule yours right now by calling 904-513-3905 or filling out the contact form on this site.