If you have been charged with a crime in Virginia, how you conduct yourself after the fact is essential to the outcome of your case. Unfortunately, many people facing Virginia criminal charges make serious mistakes that jeopardize their chances of successfully defending themselves in court and avoiding a criminal conviction. Below I'll tell you about some of the most common mistakes I see in my practice and how to avoid them, as well as when a Fairfax criminal defense attorney can help.
Mistake #1: Talking to the Officer
Nearly all of us are familiar with the term Miranda Rights, yet far too many people fail to exercise them during an arrest, even when they know it is well within their rights to stay quiet. Once you are arrested or custodially detained by the police and are being questioned, you have the right to remain silent. After being in custody for arrest purposes, an officer must verbally communicate what is known as a Miranda warning to you, letting you know that you have the right to remain silent; that anything you say can be used against you in court; that you have the right to hire an attorney; and that if you cannot afford it, you will be appointed an attorney by the court.
Once an officer reads you your Miranda rights, you are in no way required to say anything about the crime, whether you committed it or you didn't. Instead, wait to consult with an attorney before speaking to anyone about what happened. Even though most people know they have the right to remain silent, far too many disclose information to the police that they shouldn't.
If you think about it, this makes sense: not only is the situation stressful, but during an arrest suspects may be faced with a barrage of confusing questions from officers. Police officers are incredibly experienced at getting people to talk during an arrest and can be very good at getting a suspect to voluntarily provide them with information about themselves and the crime they are being questioned about. Never forget that from the moment you come into contact with a police officer, the officer is building a case against you, and you should never aid them in doing this part of their job, whether you are guilty or not.
In a nutshell, always speak to a lawyer before you speak to the police, even if you think you have nothing to say that will harm you.
Mistake #2: Sharing too Much Information with Others
Being arrested for a crime is an incredibly upsetting and overwhelming experience, leaving anyone who has been charged in a vulnerable position. The human impulse in these cases is to reach out to the people we most trust: our friends, family members, colleagues, and spouses, and tell our story.
But doing so can land you in hot legal water if any of the people you have talked to are subpoenaed to court to testify against you. If called to testify, they must tell the truth or face a criminal charge of their own for contempt of court or maybe even perjury if they testify to a material misrepresentation. Anything you say to anyone can become evidence in court, even if you know you are innocent of the crime you have been charged with, so avoid revealing any details of your case to anyone but your lawyer. This includes on social media: far too many people make posts they think are innocent, when they are actually incriminating themselves.
Mistake #3: Failing to Prepare a Strong Defense
In many cases, someone thinks that because they are innocent of the crime they have been charged with, they will necessarily be found innocent in a court of law. So they fail to seek legal help and decide to represent themselves in court, thinking all they need to do is tell their side of the story and they will be found innocent. But unfortunately, this is not always true, and many innocent people are convicted of crimes each day in Virginia.
In other cases, after a conviction a person assumes the opposite: that they will be found guilty in court. Again, they fail to hire a lawyer or think about how to defend themselves. Even if you committed the crime, it is important to remember that this does not mean that a jury will necessarily find you guilty. There are many defenses you can put forth that can often convince a jury not to convict.
In both of these cases, the failure to prepare a defense can lead to an unnecessary conviction. Most people fail to prepare a good defense because they are not legally trained and do not understand the range of defenses that are available to them, or they do not fully understand Virginia laws and how they could use these laws to their advantage in court. Some people attempt to study the laws surrounding their case, but this is incredibly difficult, and is no substitute for in-depth legal knowledge. Unless you are incredibly knowledgeable about Virginia laws, it is in your best interest to work with an attorney rather than representing yourself in court.
Regardless of what you perceive as the severity of the crime you are being charged with, even if it is a misdemeanor, you are still facing criminal charges that will stay on your record for life if you are convicted. You may also be facing thousands of dollars in fines, jail time, prison time and other penalties depending on the crime. The best course of action is to fight the charges.
Again, this can be incredibly difficult to do on your own in many cases. By consulting with a highly skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney, however, you will have someone on your team who understands the complexities of Virginia law, can properly analyze the prosecution's evidence, and provide a strong defense. In addition, if the police or prosecutors make mistakes at any point, a knowledgeable Virginia defense attorney will be able to identify them and know how to challenge them in court.
Working with a Fairfax Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have been charged with any crime, speaking with an experienced defense attorney as soon as possible is in your best interest. If you wait too long, it will be more difficult for your lawyer to properly build a strategic defense.
Attorneys offer free consultations on cases, so it is always worth your time to speak with an attorney and learn more about your rights and how working with a lawyer could potentially help your case. Experienced attorneys can often get charges, penalties, and jail time reduced.
John Kassabian has been successfully defending local residents against criminal charges for over 25 years and he may be able to help you as well.
Get in touch with Kassabian & Kassabian P.L.C. today at 703-750-3622 for a free consultation on your case.