When Criminal Charges are Pending – Move Quickly
We are all familiar with this sales tactic creating a sense of urgency. Most of the time this “call to action” benefits the seller more than the consumer. However, there are situations in life where immediate action saves lives. The faster the fire department arrives, the more likely it is they will be able to rescue victims and prevent damage. Similarly in combat, quick action can exploit the enemy, resulting in a battlefield win and mitigating the risk of friendly casualties.
In most criminal defense cases, acting quickly can make a big difference in the outcome. While there are times to exercise tactical patience, the actions taken immediately after a threat of arrest can be some of the most important. In this blog post, we will address some of the stages in the criminal process where speed is imperative in getting the best results.
1. Pre-arrest representation
In many cases, pre-arrest legal representation can mean the difference between being arrested and not being arrested or charged. The common scenario: Someone learns that he or she has been accused of a crime and wonder whether they need a lawyer. Some people choose to act immediately and contact a lawyer, while others decide to wait and see what happens. I have yet to meet anyone who wishes they didn’t hire an attorney immediately. For some people early intervention prevents them from making poor decisions. For others the peace of mind they get from knowing they are paying someone else to worry about the problem is liberating.
In some instances, the accused has evidence that could prove their innocence. Other times, the accused believes he or she can explain why the accusations are false. Regardless, it is usually a bad idea to refute an allegation without first discussing the likely result of your actions with a lawyer.
Most cases do not begin with a criminal defendant being caught red-handed by law enforcement. They start with an investigation instead. During the investigation stage, there are many things a criminal defendant can do to increase his or her odds of getting arrested; a few actions can decrease those odds.
White collar crime and sexual assault arrests rarely occur immediately after the alleged crime. Investigators try to build cases for prosecutors through direct interrogations and indirect methods of trying to get admissions from a suspect. Complex cases involving federal conspiracies or wire fraud may take months or years before law enforcement decides to arrest.
Criminal defense attorney involvement at this point where a person first becomes a suspect can be crucial, as we can inform our client what tactics law enforcement may use against him or her in the near future. We can also work with our clients on strategies and tactics used to minimize the effectiveness of some of law enforcement’s more deceptive investigative techniques.
2. Posting Bond or Bail
In Nebraska, the term “bail” is often called “bond” by the courts. Posting bond can be difficult. All jails take cash and some accept other forms of payment. For most people coming up with $20,000 cash is difficult without proper planning. We once had a client’s mother go to a local bank in a small town to bond her son out, only to have the bank tell her they didn’t have $20,000 cash on hand. She had to travel 200 miles to another branch to get the cash she needed.
In another case, a Berry Law client had plenty of money to post bond, but he was in jail and no one else had access to his accounts. Eventually, the client made a close relative his power of attorney and it worked out, but he spent time in jail that could have been avoided had he planned to post bond.
The bottom line is that if there is a risk of arrest, the person facing the risk must be proactive and plan ahead. When Berry Law clients contact us about their pending arrest, we immediately make a bond plan that considers the following questions:
1. What is the likely range of bond or bail money the court will require for the specific crime alleged?
2. How can the client get access to those funds?
3. How does the jail accept payment?
4. Is it easier to pay the money to the county court or the jail?
5. Who will post bond money for the client if or when the client is arrested?
6. Does the county require a bond swearing hearing?
In federal cases, the court seldom sets bond and either releases a criminal defendant subject to conditions or does not release the defendant. When we expect a federal indictment, Berry Law works with clients to create a plan for release from custody with the goal that the federal pre-trial services officer will support the plan and recommend that the judge release our client based on the conditions we set forth in the proposed plan.
3. After you’ve been released on bond
In many cases, attorneys are not hired until after a person has been arrested and posted bond. In these cases, the defense attorney may have to act quickly to preserve evidence that could be used at trial to raise reasonable doubt. This may include physical evidence, financial records, digital evidence, and other things that could disappear in the near future if not immediately preserved.
This urgency to obtain evidence does not necessarily mean there is an urgency to try the case. A good criminal defense attorney knows when to urgently handle matters and when to exercise tactical patience. It is not uncommon for a client to feel a case is moving at a rapid pace through the pre-arrest and bond setting stages only to slow down after the client is released from jail. This happens for several reasons, but mostly because cases go through several procedural steps before they are ever tried before a jury.
Hiring an attorney early in the process may protect you from making mistakes that could result in your arrest. Waiting until after you are arrested to hire a lawyer may make posting bond more challenging than necessary. For those who wait until after they are out on bond to hire a lawyer, sooner is often better.
If you or a loved one is facing a serious criminal matter, contact Berry Law.