Many of the calls we get at Fischer Redavid PLLC are from potential clients taking advantage of our firm’s guaranteed free consultation to discuss their case. Inevitably, they ask: “Do I really need a lawyer?”
This can usually be traced back to feelings such as, “this can’t really be a big deal. I don’t even know why I was arrested”; “I read the arrest form, and the cops are lying. I can prove it”; “the cop told me he wouldn’t come to court”; or, “I’ll just speak to the prosecutor myself and let them know what really happened.”
Invariably these feelings, while common, can lead to poor decision making—and even make a bad situation worse. Having an attorney represent you puts a well-needed buffer between the accused and the criminal justice system. So important is this role that it’s one of the few constitutionally guaranteed rights. So let’s address each of these thoughts one at a time.
“This isn’t really a big deal. I don’t even know why I was arrested.”
The truth is, no arrest should ever be taken lightly. It is a big deal. Your freedom and your future are at risk–period. All too often clients are perplexed when trying to determine the actual reason for their arrest. Many feel they didn’t do anything wrong (and sometimes, sadly, they didn’t), but the arrest affidavit reads like a “how to find probable cause” script for crimes most people are not familiar with. Remember, after an arrest, it’s not what actually happened, it’s what the government thinks it can prove. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can read the arrest form, research the law, and make clear to you why the police think they were justified in arresting you. You may not agree with the officer’s version of the “facts,” but that’s why you need a lawyer. The reality is that when unrepresented defendants attempt to explain their confusion as to why they’re being charged or what really happened to the judge or prosecutor, it only makes matters worse, not better.
“The cop or victim told me they wouldn’t come to court.”
If I had a dime for every time a potential client told me this, and later turned out to be wrong, I’d be a wealthy man. If your only defense is hoping that an alleged victim or cop won’t appear, you might be setting yourself up for a terrible resolution to your case. Often, these unsuspecting defendants are left to asking the judge for an emergency continuance, a request that is often denied. But this pit in your stomach situation is easily avoided by having an experienced criminal defense lawyer next to you. The attorneys at Fischer Redavid PLLC expect the unexpected and prepare accordingly. Police officers want to justify their arrests. Think about it. More than that, though, showing up for court is another way to be “on the clock.” If a midnight officer has to show up bright and early while he or she is “off duty,” they may be hoping to make time-and-a-half pay.
And think about this: the alleged victim thought enough to actually call the cops on you and make a report (it’s a crime to make false police reports or misuse 911). An officer thought enough to put your freedom and your future at risk by arresting you. Whether it was all done in haste or in the heat of the moment is of no consequence. Once the police are called and you are arrested, wheels have been set in motion that you are powerless to stop without a good criminal defense lawyer by your side. The most commonly understood principle of criminal justice is this: the cops do NOT decide whether or not to proceed with the criminal charges against you, the State Attorney does.
“I’ll just speak to the State Attorney myself.”
When criminal defendants are represented by a criminal defense lawyer, the State Attorney cannot directly address the defendant, they must go through the lawyer. While on the surface this restriction is clear, the more practical implications are that defendants do not incriminate themselves. Prosecutors are not your friends and should never be your confidants. A criminal defense lawyer knows the strengths and weaknesses of the State’s case and can use them to your advantage. Furthermore, the State Attorney cannot bully or intimidate an experienced criminal defense lawyer. The same cannot be said for unrepresented defendants. If you are unrepresented, you’re an easy mark for the government; someone who doesn’t really know the law and poses no challenge to them. They may tell you their hands are tied and there’s nothing they can do (e.g. “this is the best offer you’re going to get.”). You need a lawyer to push the right buttons, a lawyer to speak their language, a lawyer to stand up for you.
The criminal justice system is flooded with post-arrest, pre-trial litigation. The judge, no matter how well intended, cannot be expected to give each and every defendant individualized attention that he or she needs, and with good reason. They’re supposed to be neutral and detached, not advocates. That’s what a lawyer is for. Prosecutors are the attorneys fighting against your best interests. Cops make an arrest and they see if they can stick a charge from it. You can tell them anything you want, but they can always reserve the right to “disagree” or “find you incredible” or “believe, based on the officer’s explanation, that they have a ‘good faith’ basis to proceed with a trial.” That leaves room for only one other officer of the court—your defense attorney. If you can’t afford to hire one, have the court appoint one for you. Don’t be so eager to forgo one of the most essential constitutional guarantees.
The Hollywood criminal defense lawyers at Fischer Redavid PLLC are always available, 24/7, to give a free consultation to you or a loved one who has been arrested. Every case is different, as is every client. Get the individualized representation that you deserve.