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HOW TO SELECT AN ATTORNEY?
Ask friends for recommendations. Remember that some attorneys rarely ever go to trial. If you have an attorney who isn’t comfortable with the words “let’s go to trial”, then you are missing the ultimate leverage a defendant has – a trial attorney for an advocate. The district attorneys know who is and who isn’t a trial attorney. They know defendants who are represented by an attorney that doesn’t try cases will plead out clients no matter how bad the DA’s offer. Unfortunately, there is a certain amount of gamesmanship involved in the District Attorney’s evaluation of their cases. Winning is important. Justice is very subjective anyway and statistics are very important to some of the DA’s.
It used to be common for attorneys to have general practices: a little criminal law mixed with a little personal injury mixed with a little business law, mixed with a little family law. These days, to keep up with constantly changing laws, better attorneys have tended to specialize in particular fields.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE BEING INVESTIGATED
If you believe you are being investigated for a crime – you should call an attorney immediately. You should not talk to the police without first consulting an attorney. Sometimes an attorney can help gather evidence that helps persuade an investigating officer or prosecutor evaluating a case that there is no case worth pursuing.Most cases are investigated by a police officer who then sends their report to the prosecutor’s office for review. Some prosecutors are assigned to do nothing but review police reports and make filing decisions. The prosecutor can add or delete charges suggested by the arresting/investigating officer – or decide not to file any charges. If you are contacted by an officer – always be polite. How you act can be very important – both because of the impression you make on the officer and with how a prosecutor, judge or jury relates to you later.
WHAT TO DO IF ARRESTED
Do not make a statement to the police. While all of us have seen and heard this advice all our lives – I have seen so many cases where smart people decided to talk to investigating officers thinking they would help themselves. Too late they learn their statement was what was needed to convict them. Always be respectful – but firm: you can explain to the officers that you look forward to talking to them after you speak with your attorney. Remember too that phone calls from the jail are routinely tape recorded by the Sheriff. Jail visits with friends are conducted over phones and those too are routinely tape-recorded by the Sheriff. PEOPLE IN CUSTODY SHOULD NEVER DISCUSS WITH ANYONE, OTHER THAN THEIR ATTORNEY, THE FACTS OF THEIR CASE. Occasionally an inmate will “snitch off” another inmate in hopes of making a deal with the prosecutor. Sometimes even a small amount of information is enough to give a snitch enough to sound credible when making up a “jail house confession.” Sometimes police ask the person arrested to “cooperate” and help them “bust” someone else. From my perspective, this is a terrible choice – it nearly always works out badly for the informant. Informants are known as “snitches.” Obviously, they are unpopular folks – in jail they are often attacked if left in the general population. Police fequently promise more than they can or will deliver to snitches. Sometimes they promise not to file the snitches’ case or to keep their identity secret. There are many ways the identity of a snitch can come out.
HOW TO BAIL OUT OF JAIL.
Most people arrested are released on “PR” (“personal recognizance”). This means they are not considered a danger to the community or a flight risk. If bail is required, then there are three principal ways to get out of jail:
1. the entire amount may be posted which is then returned after the case is concluded;
2. a bondsman will post the full amount after he or she is paid their fee and given collateral for the full amount. The fee is about10% of the bail amount and that is not returned to the defendant;
3. a property bond is posted. This requires that real property worth at least twice the bail be transferred to the county as collateral for the bail. This third method is somewhat rare, but useful in high bail cases.