What to Do if Wrongfully Accused of a Crime - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

What to Do if Wrongfully Accused of a Crime

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There may be no more helpless feeling than being charged for a crime that you did not commit. But now isn’t a time to dwell on hopelessness. You need to act quickly in order to preserve your freedom.

Know Your Rights

It’s absolutely imperative that you understand your rights when being charged with a crime. Because while your rights are required to be read, they aren’t always explained in full detail.

Among your rights, you enjoy:

  • The right to an attorney
  • The right to remain silent
  • The right to refuse a search without a warrant

If you are being arrested, it’s important that you do so compliantly. As frustrating as it can be, remain calm, quiet, and cooperative. Any sort of threatening or offensive verbal or physical activity could lead to further charges and complications. You do not want a misconduct charge like resisting arrest or assaulting a police officer on your record.

While it’s a good idea to be cooperative, don’t confuse cooperative with being forthcoming. As we’ll discuss below, you have the right to remain silent – and probably should be. 

Hire Your Own Attorney

When it comes to hiring an attorney, you have the right to choose your own attorney. If you decide not to – or if you can’t afford one – the court is required to appoint one. However, it should be noted that court-appointed counsel is never the best option.

If you have the ability to hire a lawyer, you should do so. Working with a public defender is a terrible idea (simply because you don’t know who you’re going to get). Not only are they overworked, but they typically don’t care much about you as a person. (This isn’t always true, but because of the large number of clients they work with, they operate more like legal “assembly machines.” Next one up!)

Do whatever you can to hire a seasoned criminal defense lawyer. It’s a whole lot cheaper to hire a good lawyer who preserves your freedom than to deal with the long-term legal and financial complications of a guilty verdict.

Remain Silent 

As mentioned, you have the right to remain silent. This is usually pretty easy for people to do when they know they’re guilty. It’s a lot more challenging when you know you’re innocent. Every fiber of your being wants to speak up and scream, “I didn’t do it!” However, your best option is to remain silent until your legal counsel can put together a plan. This is your constitutional right  – so use it!

Along these same lines, you can decline voluntary searches and testing. Even if you know giving a DNA sample will prove your innocence, it’s important that you wait until a valid warrant is filed and presented. This simply ensures law enforcement follows correct protocol. The same goes for searches of your property. 

With all of that being said, this doesn’t give you a right to destroy or hide evidence that you believe will make you look bad. For example, if you’re a gun owner and there’s been a violent crime in your home, don’t toss all of your firearms in the lake. Destroying evidence (or what law enforcement perceives as evidence) is never a good look. 

Don’t Contact Victims or Witnesses

If you’re being accused of a crime by someone and you know that you didn’t do it, your first instinct is to confront that person. Are they confused? Are they out to get you? Why are they saying these things? But the worst thing you can do is contact them.

Even if you have good intentions, contacting a victim (or a witness for that matter) can only complicate things. They could interpret your presence as intimidation or try to twist your words against you. It’s just not worth it. Let your lawyer do the heavy lifting.

Adding it All Up

If you’re ever unsure of what to do, just ask your attorney. This is why it’s nice to have an experienced attorney whom you trust. It allows you to sit back and let the professionals handle it. And as painstaking as the process can feel, that’s all you can do.

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I'm a single mother of 2 living in Utah writing about startups, business, marketing, entrepreneurship, and health. I also write for Inc, Score, Manta, and Newsblaze Contact the author.

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