20 Mistakes to Avoid When Facing Criminal Charges
Getting charged with a crime is an extremely stressful and overwhelming experience. Whether a misdemeanor or a felony, criminal charges can profoundly impact your life, resulting in hefty fines, loss of freedom, and a criminal record that could follow you for years. Unfortunately, when individuals face criminal charges, they often make common mistakes that can jeopardize their case and future.
We’ll discuss 20 mistakes to avoid when facing criminal charges and provide tips on protecting your rights and seeking professional legal help from a competent criminal defense attorney. Whether you’re facing charges for the first time or have previous experience, this article can be a valuable resource to help you navigate this difficult legal process.
1. Failing to Hire a Competent Attorney
Not hiring a competent attorney is a costly mistake when facing legal issues. A good attorney can protect your interests, negotiate the best outcome, and prevent unfavorable results. To find the right attorney, research and compare different options.
Ask for referrals, use online directories, and look for an attorney with experience and expertise in your case’s area of law who charges reasonable fees and communicates well with you.
2. Talking to Law Enforcement Without an Attorney Present
Miranda rights are the rights given upon arrest in the US. They include the right to remain silent and have an attorney present during questioning. Self-incrimination can lead to prosecution, even if you’re innocent.
Having an attorney present is crucial to understand your rights, protect your interests, and advise on whether to answer questions. An attorney can also challenge any unlawful actions by the police or prosecution.
3. Ignoring or Failing to Understand the Charges
To avoid serious consequences, it’s crucial to understand the charges when accused of a crime. Charges include misdemeanors, felonies, infractions, and violations, each with different severity and punishments. Understanding the elements of the crime helps you defend against the prosecution’s evidence.
Ignoring charges could lead to missed opportunities to protect your rights and interests, negotiate a plea deal, or appeal your conviction. If you are facing criminal charges, seeking guidance from a skilled defense attorney can be helpful. They can clarify the charges against you and help you defend your rights and freedom.
4. Failing to Preserve Evidence
In a criminal case, evidence is critical to proving or disproving guilt. Evidence can take different forms, including physical or verbal, and must be relevant, admissible, and reliable to be considered by the court.
Evidence includes weapons, DNA or fingerprints, eyewitness testimony, and medical or digital records. However, evidence can be lost, destroyed, or tampered with if not preserved properly, weakening the case for the prosecution or defense and affecting the trial’s outcome. Collecting and securing evidence promptly is essential, as is labeling and documenting it, storing it safely, and avoiding altering or destroying it unnecessarily.
5. Sharing Your Case with Friends and Family
Sharing details about your case with your loved ones may reveal sensitive information that could weaken your claim or be used against you. Your lawyer must keep your information confidential, but others may unintentionally share it with someone, not on your side.
To protect your privacy, avoid discussing your case with friends and family. Instead, seek emotional support from a therapist, support group, or hobbies. Ask your lawyer for referrals to professionals or organizations that can help you cope with the stress of your situation.
6. Failing to Follow Court Orders
A court order is a directive from a judge that defines the legal relationships between parties involved in a court proceeding. Court orders include subpoenas, warrants, restraining orders, protection orders, and summonses.
Not following court orders can lead to severe outcomes, including civil or criminal penalties, fines, imprisonment, or forfeiture of privileges. To avoid these consequences, it’s important to read and understand the terms of the court order, follow them exactly, keep copies of related documents, and report any violations or changes to the court or relevant authorities. Seek legal advice if necessary.
7. Believing the Prosecutor is on Your Side
The prosecutor is a government official responsible for prosecuting criminal cases and seeking justice for society and victims. However, many believe the prosecutor is on their side and can negotiate a deal or avoid a trial, but this is a dangerous misconception.
The prosecutor’s main goal is to secure a conviction, and they may use tactics to pressure or persuade the defendant. Therefore, it’s crucial to have a strong defense strategy, never talk to the prosecutor without your lawyer, and be aware of your legal options and defenses. A defense strategy can help challenge the prosecutor’s evidence, raise doubts, and obtain a fair outcome.
8. Not Taking the Case Seriously
Giving your criminal case the utmost attention is crucial as it can result in severe consequences such as hefty fines, imprisonment, and a criminal record. Working with an attorney can help you understand your legal rights and options and increase your chances of a favorable outcome.
Failing to take the case seriously can result in additional charges or penalties, violate your bail or probation, weaken your defense strategy, and show a lack of respect for the law and the court. Seek legal assistance as soon as possible and treat the charges seriously.
9. Failing to Consider a Plea Bargain
A plea bargain is an agreement commonly made between a defendant and a prosecutor. The accused has agreed to plead guilty to a reduced charge in return for a benefit. However, accepting a plea bargain has drawbacks, including giving up constitutional rights and admitting guilt.
Before accepting or rejecting a plea bargain, the defendant should consider the pros and cons and consult an attorney. A plea bargain may be appropriate in some cases but not in others, such as when the defendant is innocent or has a strong defense.
10. Not Being Honest with Your Attorney
Honesty with your attorney is crucial to achieving the best outcome in a criminal case. Lying can harm your credibility and damage your relationship with your attorney, potentially leading to additional charges or penalties.
To establish trust, disclose all the facts and circumstances of your case, follow your attorney’s advice, and keep them informed of any changes. Remember, ethics and confidentiality rules bind your attorney, and you cannot use your information against you or reveal it without your consent.
11. Talking About the Case on Social Media
Using social media during a legal case can expose sensitive information, damage credibility, and violate confidentiality agreements.
To protect your privacy and confidentiality, avoid using social media altogether during the case. If you must use it, adjust your privacy settings, limit, who can see your posts, and avoid sharing any details about the case, including photos or comments.
Also, don’t accept friend requests from strangers or untrustworthy people. If you refrain from using social media while your case is ongoing, you can prevent making a costly error that may negatively impact your chances of winning.
12. Failing to Understand the Risks of Trial
Trials involve the prosecution proving the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and the defendant presenting evidence to prove their innocence.
However, trials come with significant risks. If the defendant is convicted, they may face severe penalties and lose their reputation, privacy, and freedom. The following considerations are essential for deciding whether or not to go forward with a trial:
- The strength of evidence.
- The credibility of witnesses.
- The likelihood of a favorable verdict.
- Personal preferences and goals.
- Defendants should consult their lawyer and weigh the pros and cons before deciding.
13. Failing to Prepare for Trial
Without proper trial preparation, you may miss critical evidence, arguments, or witnesses that support your claim or defense.
To prepare for trial, you must gather and organize evidence, review rules of evidence and procedure, research the law and facts, identify and contact witnesses, prepare for cross-examination, and practice your statements and examination.
If you have an attorney representing you, you should work closely with them to prepare for trial. They can help you with all aspects of preparation and advise you on presenting your case. You should also communicate with your attorney and follow their instructions and guidance.
14. Speaking in Court Without an Attorney Present
Speaking in court without an attorney is a mistake if you’re facing criminal charges. Here’s why:
- An attorney can explain court procedures and help you prepare your defense.
- An attorney can speak on your behalf, question witnesses, challenge evidence, and negotiate with the prosecutor.
- Speaking without an attorney can harm your case and future, as you may say something that can be used against you, waive your rights, or miss opportunities to present evidence. It can also make you appear unprepared or disrespectful to the court.
15. Making False Statements in Court
Lying or making false statements can damage your credibility and expose you to legal sanctions such as contempt of court, perjury, or fraud.
They can also weaken your position and result in serious consequences such as fines, imprisonment, or dismissal of your case. It is crucial, to tell the truth at all times and consult with your lawyer before making any statements in court.
By being honest, you can protect your interests, uphold the justice system’s integrity, and avoid potential civil liability for damages caused by your false statement.
16. Failing to Mitigate the Consequences
A criminal conviction carries the potential for severe repercussions that may affect many facets of your life. You may have to pay fines, serve jail time, lose your job, or lose your rights. These consequences can also harm your reputation, relationships, and future opportunities.
However, you may be able to mitigate the consequences of your conviction by taking certain steps. For example, you may be able to negotiate a plea deal, apply for a diversion program, seek expungement or sealing of your record, or request a pardon. These options may help you reduce your sentence, avoid a criminal record, or restore your rights.
If you want to lessen the impact of your conviction, accepting responsibility for your conduct is crucial. By admitting your mistake, expressing remorse, and showing that you are willing to change, you may earn the respect and leniency of the judge, the prosecutor, and the victim. Taking responsibility can also help you heal from the guilt and shame of your crime and move on with your life.
17. Ignoring Long-Term Consequences
Many people prioritize short-term gains or losses and overlook how their choices can impact their future. It can have serious implications for their well-being and success.
For instance, a person may eat junk food daily for its taste and convenience, neglecting the long-term effects of poor nutrition, such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Similarly, a person may skip studying for an exam to indulge in entertainment, disregarding the long-term outcomes of failing the exam, such as lower grades, limited opportunities, and reduced confidence.
Hence, it’s vital to anticipate the long-term consequences of our actions before making decisions. By doing so, we can avoid making mistakes that may compromise our future and make choices that benefit us in the long run.
18. Self-Representing in Court
Self-representation, also called pro se or pro per representation, allows individuals to appear in court without an attorney. However, representing oneself can have negative consequences, such as lacking the knowledge, skills, or resources to present the case effectively and comply with the rules of evidence and procedure.
It can lead to losing the case, higher costs, or harsher penalties. Self-representation may be appropriate in certain situations, such as small claims cases, uncontested divorces, or minor traffic violations. However, consulting with an attorney before deciding to represent oneself is still advisable.
19. Disregarding the Significance of Plea Negotiations
Plea negotiations are discussions between the prosecutor and defense lawyer to determine whether a guilty plea could resolve a case instead of going to trial. Ignoring these negotiations can result in serious consequences for the defendant, including harsher charges, longer sentences, or multiple counts.
Plea negotiations can also benefit the defendant by potentially reducing charges, sentences, or counts and saving time and resources. Therefore, defendants should not overlook the importance of plea negotiations and should seek advice from their lawyers on the best course of action for their case.
20. Failing to Plan for the Future
Everyone needs to plan for the future, especially individuals with criminal records. It helps them overcome challenges and achieve their personal and professional goals. Future planning can include the following:
- Setting a SMART goal.
- Seeking guidance.
- Being honest about their past.
- Pursuing education and career options.
- Managing finance.
- Maintaining healthy relationships.
Following a career plan can also help them identify their strengths, prepare for job opportunities, negotiate salary and benefits, and pursue career advancement. Though challenging, planning for the future after a criminal conviction is possible with a positive attitude and these steps.
This article highlights common mistakes that individuals facing criminal charges often make and how these errors can impact the outcome of their case. It emphasizes the importance of seeking professional legal assistance promptly and avoiding these mistakes.
Suppose you or someone you know is in a similar situation. In that case, it is advisable to seek the assistance of a qualified criminal defense attorney who can safeguard your rights and interests. Do not delay in taking this step. Remember, your future may depend on it.
About the Author
Stephanie Gordon currently works as the Content Marketing Strategist for the Arizona Criminal Law Team. Aside from spreading awareness about criminal law and defense, she enjoys reading and trail running with her family and friends.