The idea of hiring a criminal defense lawyer if you're not facing charges may seem a little odd. Several situations, however, may call for the support of a criminal defense attorney. Let's look at three times when it might be wise to lawyer up even if you haven't been charged with an offense.
Witness to a Crime
It can seem reasonable to think that you're just a witness. Criminal investigations, though, can go down a lot of rabbit holes.
First, there is room for misunderstanding about why you were present to witness a crime. What looks like being in the wrong place at the wrong time to you might look like participation to a cop.
Second, defendants have been known to try to pin crimes on witnesses. Maybe your friend just decided it would be better for you to serve the time than them, and they may rat you out for something you didn't do.
Finally, the police might not think you're being a good enough witness. Suddenly, you're facing obstruction of justice charges that they'll conveniently forget about if you give them a little more information.
You Might Be Charged in the Future
There are several scenarios where you might yet face charges. First, the police may still be investigating a case and not have enough evidence. Second, you might currently be facing charges and not know it because they're under seal so the cops can keep digging. Finally, you may be the subject of a grand jury investigation into whether you ought to be charged. When you get even the slightest hint that a police officer, detective, or prosecutor is interested in you as the subject of an investigation, call a criminal defense lawyer.
It might not seem like the American criminal justice system assumes guilt by association. However, every system is prone to human weaknesses. One of the worst of those for friends, family members, and business partners of folks accused of crimes is guilt by association.
The argument often ends up being painfully simple. A prosecutor might say, "After all of this, how could you not know?" Yes, it might feel easy enough to say that you didn't, but that doesn't necessarily stop a cop or DA from deciding you must have known about the alleged offenses. If someone you're closely associated with stands accused of wrongdoing, it's worth taking a few minutes to consult with a criminal defense attorney to learn what your exposure might be.