What To Do If You Are Facing Criminal Charges
Virginia Beach Criminal Defense Lawyers Discuss Your Rights
Even if you are not formally under arrest but merely "in custody"
(you are not free to leave), when police ask questions seeking an incriminating
response from a suspect of a crime, they must advise them of their
Miranda Rights beforehand (Miranda v. Arizona). When questioned by police, you have the right to:
Remain silent - Anything you say can and
will be used against you in court
- Have an attorney
Have an attorney present during questioning - Even if you remain silent, police can still question you relentlessly. You must
unambiguously state that you want a lawyer present. How do you unambiguously make this known?
- "Maybe I should have a lawyer"
- "Do you think I need a lawyer?"
- "I should probably get a lawyer"
want a lawyer"
not answering any questions without speaking to a lawyer"
If police release you after questioning, they can try again at a later
point, remember to
assert your rights!
Remember, detectives and all police officers are highly trained in interrogation
techniques. You CANNOT talk your way out of an interrogation. They are
NOT your friends, and they can
legally use some highly coercive tactics to try to obtain a confession. Police
Lie to you. They will tell you they have hard evidence you committed a crime (video
surveillance, other witnesses, etc.) in order to make you feel trapped
into "cooperating" with them. If you agree to voluntarily take
a polygraph (you should NEVER take a police polygraph), police may lie to you, telling you that the results were "inconclusive"
or "showed deception," when in fact you passed the test.
Lay the guilt trip on you. Officers often show suspects of violent crimes pictures of the scene
and of the victim, looking for a response from you and possibly planting
the seeds for a false confession later on by giving you key details that
only the perpetrator and police know.
Pretend they are your friend. Police regularly tell suspects that they "just want to help them
out," and they "have heard the victim's story, and they
need your story or else they only hear one side." Detectives and
investigating officers are NOT going to just let you go when you tell
them your story, but that story WILL be used against you at trial.
Offer to help you out. Although officers are not allowed to promise any plea deals, etc. during
interrogations, they will sometimes offer to help you out in other ways
if you "come clean" with them. They might say that they will
make sure the judge knows that you cooperated, or tell you that "you
will make it much easier on yourself if you just tell us what you did."
Do NOT fall for this interrogation technique – the prosecutor and
judge are NOT bound by anything a police officer "promises"
to a suspect during an interrogation.
Try to wear you down and out to the point of submission. Interrogations are supposed to be unbiased and fair to the suspect; for
the sole purpose of "obtaining the truth." You should be offered
bathroom and food/drink breaks during a lengthy interrogation. Whether
a particular detective adheres to this or not, an interrogation can be
extensive, often lasting for several hours. Oftentimes a suspect simply
cannot take the interrogation any longer and will literally "tell
them what they want to hear." Officers are NOT required to record
interrogations, and most will only record or transcribe the final ten
or fifteen minutes of a multiple-hour interrogation, during which time
the suspect "confesses." Remember, you can avoid ALL of this
REFUSING TO SPEAK WITHOUT AN ATTORNEY!!!
DO NOT LIE!
If you choose to make a statement for some reason, do NOT lie to the officers.
When it comes time to determine your guilt or innocence, or adjudge a
sentence, judges frown upon deceitful defendants. Although it is far better
to not make ANY statement at all, cooperation by a defendant goes a long
way in the eyes of a judge. Just remember, it is your RIGHT to refuse
to answer any questions and a judge will NOT hold that against you; however
they WILL hold lies against you!
If You are in the Military and a Member of Your Command or CID, NCIS or
OSI Attempts to Question You About The Alleged Offense
DO NOT DISCUSS THE ALLEGATIONS!
- EVERYTHING you say to ANYONE concerning the allegations CAN and WILL be
used against you in civilian court as well as by the military in punitive
or administrative actions against you!
If a military investigative agency (NCIS, etc.) attempts to question you,
they must advise you of your Art. 31(b), UCMJ rights, which are similar
to the rights provided by
- REMAIN SILENT – CLEARLY ASK FOR AN ATTORNEY
- Military investigators can and will use all of the same tactics as civilian
police, so the same advice provided for the civilian authorities pertains
to questioning by military investigators
If a member of your command (CO, XO, Chief, Master at Arms,
anyone) attempts to discuss the allegations with you, simply advise them that you
cannot discuss the allegations or charges with ANYONE without your attorney present
What To Do and Not Do Pending Trial
DO NOT DISCUSS THE CHARGES WITH
- Although there are very few exceptions, you must assume that ANYONE can
be called as a witness against you if you speak with them about what did
or didn't happen. This includes your: spouse, kids, siblings, parents,
girlfriend/boyfriend, co-workers, friends…EVERYONE.
Do NOT talk about the case to ANYONE who could potentially be a witness
for either side! Even if you innocently talk to a prosecution witness who is your friend,
someone could misconstrue that innocent conversation as you attempting
to sway their testimony or willingness to testify – if that happens,
you can be charged with obstruction of justice. If you discuss the case
with your own witnesses leading up to trial, a good prosecutor will do
his best to twist those conversations into the scenario of you and your
witness colluding, or making sure your false facts are straight before
he/she testifies. Either way, the safest bet is to have NO conversations
with any potential witnesses prior to trial – let your attorney
DELETE ALL SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS! -The instances in which someone's Facebook, Twitter or other social
media accounts have been used against them in both criminal and civil
trials has skyrocketed over the past five years. The first thing we do
when retained on a case with an alleged victim is to search social media
sites to see if that person has a profile. If that profile is there, and
it is public, there is more often than not content that is
very damaging to their integrity as a witness or "victim."
Prosecutors do the SAME thing! A good prosecutor will scour the internet looking for anything and everything
to use against you, including pictures of you getting intoxicated, posts
about drugs or committing other crimes, and any and all references to
the alleged offenses. Maintaining a social media profile during a pending
criminal trial is nothing but bad news – take it
ALL TERMS OF PRETRIAL RELEASE OR BOND! -If you violate any condition of your bond, you will find yourself right
back in jail and facing an angry judge on your trial date.
- If there are protective orders in your case, ABIDE by them!
- If there is a trespassing warning in your case, ABIDE by it!
- MAINTAIN CONTACT with and COMPLY with your pretrial release officer or bondsman
- DO NOT LEAVE VIRGINIA unless your recognizance paperwork notes that you
are allowed to do so! This includes workups, training, and deployments
for the military, as well as any personal trips out of state.
MAKE YOURSELF LOOK AS GOOD AS POSSIBLE FOR THE JUDGE! You need to do everything in your power to make yourself look as best as
possible to a judge that will be determining your fate.
What this means:
Traffic offense? Enroll in and complete driver improvement class, and bring the certificate
with you to court. Often a judge will order that you complete one in order
to reduce your charge, and the best way to make that happen in court is
to do it ahead of time. Plus, if you voluntarily enroll and complete the
course, you are eligible for the positive points on your license; if your
enrollment is court-ordered, you are ineligible for those points.
Alcohol/Drug offense or offense involving intoxication? Enroll in Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous and any alternative
classes you can, and bring any and all documentation to court. And, most
importantly STOP drinking and using drugs! Not many things help a person
standing accused of alcohol/drug offenses better than being able to look
a judge in the eye and honestly say that they have not consumed alcohol
or drugs since the night of the charged offense(s).
- If you are charged with an offense involving any illegal narcotics or prescriptions
that do not belong to you, it is absolutely crucial that you are "clean"
on your court date. Different narcotics take different amounts of time
to clean out of your system. Often times, the judge may ask if you would
be willing to take a drug test on the morning of court prior to determining
your sentence or whether to dismiss your charge. If you have recently
used drugs, there is nothing your attorney can do to help you out at that point.
Assault offense? Enroll in anger management classes, and for domestic assault charges, enroll
in family counseling, and bring any and all documentation to court.
GET or MAINTAIN a job and/or school! The vast majority of defendants that a judge sees before her on any given
day do not have jobs and are not pursuing further education. A judge is
far more inclined to cut you some slack if you have a bright future than
she is someone who is going nowhere in life. Understanding the current
state of the economy, even if you cannot secure a job, give it an honest
effort and the judge will appreciate you more. If you dropped out of high
school, sign up for GED prep classes. If you didn't go to college,
contact an academic advisor at TCC or another local community college
to inquire about classes and loan possibilities. Put in an honest effort
both with school and work and it will pay off for you.
What To Do On Your Court Date
LOOK PROFESSIONAL AND RESPECTABLE!
- Cut or comb your hair – no hats
- Men – SHAVE. If you normally wear a beard, mustache or goatee, trim it
Dress appropriately!!!Men – you do not need to wear a suit, and if you cannot afford it,
you do not need to wear a tie and brand new loafers. However, do NOT wear:
jeans, shorts, pants that are hanging off your rear end (wear a belt!),
work boots, flip-flops, tank tops, hoodies, etc. Tuck your shirt in, iron
your clothes, and wear the same clothes you would wear to church with
your mother. Women – wear something conservative and professional.
Do NOT wear: anything with your stomach or lower back showing, anything
highlighting cleavage, platform heels, fishnet stockings, short skirts
(use the high school "fingertip rule" – nothing shorter
than the tip of your middle finger when holding your arm at your side),
or anything else to needlessly draw the wrong kind of attention to yourself.
Do NOT wear an excess amount of perfume or cologne. Do NOT wear flashy jewelry.
BRING ONLY WHAT YOU NEED!
NO CELL PHONES! The deputies at the security checkpoint will make you turn around and
go back to your car if you bring your cell phone/iPad, or anything else
electronic. It is a long walk, especially in bad weather.
- Don't bring anything that you don't want to give to the deputies
if you go to jail! Bring the bare necessities – driver's license/ID,
small amount of cash. If you are found guilty and have to pay a fine or
court costs, you can advise the clerk that you left your credit cards
locked in your car and will come back in to pay or arrange payment. Obviously,
no drugs, weapons, etc.
- Make sure to bring or give to your attorney prior to court all original
records of things discussed above which make you look better
MAINTAIN YOUR COMPOSURE! Whether you are in district court in front of a judge, or in circuit court
in front of a jury, maintain a "poker face" throughout your
time in court from the moment you drive into the court house parking lot
until you are well on your way home. Throughout trial and before and after
court, everyone (the judge, jurors, witnesses) will have their eyes locked
onto you. If you are joking around, rolling your eyes, muttering under
your breath, it will look very bad for you.
- If a witness testifies untruthfully, do NOT react, verbally or with any
body language or facial expression
- If the judge makes a preliminary ruling against or for you, do NOT react
- If the judge finds you guilty, do NOT react. Deputies will not hesitate
to subdue a defendant who gets out of control in court
- If the judge acquits you, do NOT react
- It is OK to be emotional if you are an emotional person and the situation
calls for it; however, being overly dramatic will only annoy the judge
and/or the jury
FOLLOW UP! The judge will tell you and your attorney what, if any, court costs, fines,
probationary requirements, etc. you must complete. You MUST fully comply
with all rulings of the judge, as soon as you leave court.
- If there are court costs and/or fines, head to the accounting desk with
the clerk's office. If you cannot pay immediately, they will set up
a payment schedule, but you MUST check in with them immediately after
court. If you fail to do so, your driver's license WILL be suspended
and, depending on the judge's ruling, the court may issue a warrant
for your arrest for failure to comply
If the judge simply orders that you remain on "good behavior"
for a period of time, that means that you must: comply with all other
rulings of the judge, and that you
must not be re-arrested for any jail-able offense during the duration of
your good behavior. This includes traffic violations.
- If the judge orders any probation, whether it is supervised or unsupervised,
you must check in with the probation office immediately upon leaving court.
Fully comply with all terms of probation and good behavior for the period
of time dictated by the judge, or you will be brought back in front of
that same judge to answer for your failure to comply
If ASAP or other treatment programs are ordered by the judge, you must
immediately head to their office(s), register, and
complete the programs or you will be forced to return to court to explain.