Our clients facing criminal charges often have no idea what to do, and what not to do, particularly when facing their first offense. Of course, having a skilled criminal defense lawyer on their side is critically important. But, there are also some basic guidelines criminal clients can follow to help their lawyer do the best job possible on their behalf.
Here are seven dos and don’ts from the experienced criminal defense team at the Zeiger Firm for anyone facing criminal charges in the Greater Philadelphia area:
DO Be Honest With Your Lawyer
Some people hesitate to tell their lawyers the truth or leave out parts of the story they’re ashamed, embarrassed, or afraid to tell. They worry admitting guilt to their attorney might hurt them. They’re worried that being open and honest with their lawyer could harm them with the prosecutor or the court, or that their lawyer could tell other people what they said. Rest assured, conversations between you and your attorney are strictly confidential (so long as there isn’t someone else present). Lawyers are also bound by law to represent their clients to the best of their ability. Attorneys take these duties very, very seriously. They exist to make it possible for you and your lawyer to have frank, honest conversations with each other in order for you to be able to protect your constitutional and statutory rights. Bottom line: if you want your lawyer to be able to do the best possible job for you, start by telling your lawyer the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
DON’T Engage With Law Enforcement Without Your Lawyer
If you were arrested, and law enforcement was doing its job, someone read you your Miranda rights. The first line of that familiar speech is often the most important. “You have the right to remain silent.” And let us tell you something else: you should remain silent. Do not say anything to law enforcement until you have consulted with an attorney. You aren’t going to talk your way out of being arrested. You aren’t going to convince the police they have the wrong person. If you have been arrested, politely tell law enforcement you want to speak with a lawyer and then shut your mouth. Also, whether or not you have been arrested, do not consent to a search if someone asks you to. If a police officer has to ask your permission to search something, that means you have the right to say no, and so you should say no. In nearly every case, the best thing to do is not to say or agree to anything and to contact a criminal defense attorney right away.
DO Show Respect to the Court
In the United States, judges and juries are vested with enormous power. It is always in your best interest to show the utmost respect to them. When it comes to how you should dress, think of going to court like going to church; wear your “Sunday best” unless your lawyer tells you otherwise. If you do not have appropriate courtroom attire, tell your attorney in advance so your attorney has the chance to find you something to wear. Also, show up to your court appearances on time. Early is best, but never, ever, be late. Always remain calm, stand when you speak to the judge, and always call the judge “sir,” “ma’am” or “Your Honor”. When you present your best self, you demonstrate character to the judge and jury and paint the picture of a responsible, law-abiding citizen.
DON’T Talk About Your Case With Friends and Family, and Stay off Social Media
It might be tempting to talk to friends and family members about the situation. Don’t. Talking to other people about your case just gives law enforcement another person to interview, and creates another opportunity for them to compare the evidence they gather against what you’ve said to someone. Do your loved ones a favor and spare them that trouble. Also, do not under any circumstances post on social media about your case unless you clear posts with your attorney first. Law enforcement is watching your account.
DO Comply With Pre-trial Service Requirements
If you are released from custody at some point prior to your trial, you are required to comply with pre-trial services in the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania. In most cases, you will be required to report to a judicial officer and follow their conditions for your release. This might include mandatory check-ins with an officer and attending court-mandated programs such as treatment programs for controlled substances, psychiatric evaluations and other mental health treatment, electronic monitoring, attending all court appearances, and not violating any restraining orders. Once again, complying with these conditions helps build your character in the eyes of the court.
DON’T Approach Victims or Witnesses in Your Case
If you approach victims or witnesses in your criminal court case, you might be in violation of a restraining order and pre-trial service conditions. Further, it’s very likely that these victims or witnesses are cooperating with authorities. If you attempt to contact them or speak with them, you will most likely jeopardize your case and make it more difficult for your attorney to attain the best possible outcome for you. You may also end up being charged with the crime of obstruction of justice or witness tampering.
DO Hire an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Philadelphia
Sometimes when people are arrested, they consider defending themselves. That’s almost always a terrible idea. Others decide to go with an attorney appointed for them by the court. Many of those attorneys are highly skilled and dedicated, but they’re also frequently overloaded with cases and may have difficulty spending the kind of time on your case that it requires. Your best option is to hire an experienced Philadelphia criminal defense attorney who can take the time on your case that it deserves.
If you have been arrested or charged with a crime, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney right away. Email the Zeiger Firm or dial (215) 546-0340 to schedule a free consultation.