For some criminal matters, law enforcement officials will investigate the alleged offense. Their goal is to collect sufficient and compelling evidence to provide the prosecutor with the facts they need to pursue the case.
Generally, if you are being investigated for a crime, you have not been officially charged. You might think that you should wait until the prosecutor files a complaint against you before retaining legal representation. However, putting off getting a lawyer can be detrimental to your case. Even at the investigation stage, it's crucial to have legal counsel on your side. A criminal defense attorney can guide you through this process and prevent you from doing anything that could later affect your case's outcome. Additionally, they will have a considerable amount of time to begin building your defense.
A criminal investigation can involve various steps. Law enforcement officials may question you, issue subpoenas to obtain documents, and conduct searches of your person or property. At each stage, a lawyer can advise you on what to say, what material to provide, and whether investigators have a right to conduct a search.
Seeking to Have Charges Dropped
As mentioned before, during an investigation, law enforcement officials are collecting evidence that they will later hand over to a prosecutor. The prosecutor reviews the evidence and determines whether or not it's sufficient to pursue the case. If they believe it is, they will file official charges against you.
Just because the prosecutor thinks there's enough evidence to attempt to prove that you did the crime, there may be flaws that they may have overlooked. A skilled attorney, who knows what's needed to prosecute a criminal case, can review the evidence and identify holes that can weaken the prosecutor's case. Depending on what the defense lawyer uncovers, it may be enough to convince the prosecutor to drop the case before official charges are filed.
Protecting You from Making Incriminating Statements
Part of the investigation may involve law enforcement officials questioning you about the alleged offense. They might use various tactics to make you feel like they are on your side – that they're trying to clear your name. However, it's important to remember that they are working to build a case against you. Generally, they are not trying to help you avoid criminal charges. They may say that they are only to get you to talk.
If you give statements to officers – even during the investigation stage – anything you say can be used as evidence against you. This is true even if the investigator has not read your Miranda Rights (Note: law enforcement officials are only required to Mirandize you after they have lawfully arrested you).
A lawyer can help you understand your rights during an investigation. They can tell you when or whether to make statements to law enforcement officials. By knowing when and when not to speak to officers, you can avoid making self-incriminating statements that can later be used against you.
Advising You on Which Documents to Provide
Law enforcement officials may issue subpoenas to get documents, records, and other physical items they believe are pertinent to the case. You cannot ignore these subpoenas – doing so can result in severe legal consequences. However, you can review and challenge them.
Your attorney can advise you what objections you can raise and prevent you from unnecessarily giving law enforcement officials documents that could hurt your case.
Questioning an Unlawful Search
The U.S. Constitution protects you from being subject to an unlawful search. That means that law enforcement officials must have a justifiable reason to search your person or property. And once they have this reason, they must obtain approval from the court (in the form of a warrant) to execute the search.
In some cases, law enforcement officials may overstep their bounds and conduct a warrantless search. In others, they might have a valid warrant but look for, in, and around things that were not named in the warrant. During the investigation, your lawyer can review the documents law enforcement presented and determine whether the search was lawful. If it was not, they can file a motion to suppress evidence.
To speak with a member of our Cleveland team, call us at (440) 709-8088 or contact us online today.