Facing a criminal charge can be scary. Facing a grievous criminal charge can be downright horrifying. You probably know that your reaction is important and that you need to be doing things to keep yourself and your future safe, but you might not have any idea what your reaction should be. The following will take a look at the things you can do to help protect yourself in the face of severe charges.
Get A Lawyer
This is non-negotiable. Your chances of having a positive outcome plummet to almost nothing without a lawyer. Getting a lawyer doesn’t mean that you’re guilty; it doesn’t mean anything other than you’re smart enough to know that the legal system isn’t always kind to people, particularly not when it comes to serious charges that give people shivers. Before you give a statement to the police, before you make a public statement of any kind, before you respond to random friends that text you about the accusation, talk to a lawyer.
It can be scary and uncomfortable to ignore social cues and questions, but it’s completely okay and within your rights to say: “I’m going to talk to a lawyer before I speak about this.” Some people will even go so far as to say that you should never speak to the police without first consulting a lawyer.
Get A Specialized Lawyer
It’s not enough to simply meet with a lawyer. You want to talk to someone who specializes in the particular charges you’re facing in the state where you’re facing them. This means if you’re dealing with a driving under the influence charge in Pittsburgh, you’re looking for defense attorneys in Pittsburgh for DUIs, as they’re best equipped to help you. If you’re dealing with egregious charges in the middle of a divorce, you want to talk to a family lawyer specializing in charges that arise during a divorce case.
The law is incredibly complicated. It isn’t something you can just show up and read about and work within easily like the movies have you believe. Understanding a particular area of the law can take years, sometimes even decades.
Learn About All Your Options
Once you’ve found yourself an experienced lawyer with a good track record, it’s time to sit down with them and learn about all the options available to you. You might think there’s only plead guilty or maintain innocence, prison or freedom, but there are often many different options in between these extremes. There are programs designed to give people second chances if it’s their first offense. There are sometimes counselling alternatives to help you deal with problems associated with a charge. Talk to your lawyer about everything that is available to you, as this can help you make the right choice for you in the situation you’re in.
Pause Social Media
If you’re someone who occasionally spends time online, now is a good time to pause those activities. Anything you post or interact with can be used against you in a court of law, even if it seems entirely unrelated. Perhaps you simply want to like a friend’s photo—he went and saw his favourite sports team play, and they won, and he’s beaming. This could potentially be looked at as you not taking your current situation seriously. Someone might see this interaction and think or say: this person doesn’t even care about the accusation; they’re just going about life like nothing’s happened. You don’t want to give that kind of impression. The best thing to do in regard to social media is literally nothing until the case is resolved.
Of course, there’s one major exception to this rule. If your lawyer tells you otherwise, listen to their advice. You might be recommended to make your accounts private for a little while or turn off comments on your posts. This can be particularly important if your accusation is public or has gotten traction online.
Follow Legal Counsel
Once you have a lawyer, listen to them. An experienced lawyer will have seen instances like yours in the past. They know what outcomes are more likely than others, given the evidence available. Listen to what your lawyer says and follow their instructions carefully. Not only will this prevent delays and simple paperwork errors, keeping you from having to do the same task multiple times, but it also gives you the best possible chance of defending yourself.
Don’t Talk To Your Accusor
If you’ve been accused of a crime, don’t talk to the person or persons who made the accusation. It doesn’t matter if they’re people you know. It doesn’t matter if you think you can simply explain yourself and resolve the situation amicably, as they’ve made a terrible mistake. Talking to the person who accused you can cause a whole lot of trouble and confusion in your case. Of course, you’re emotional. You probably have a lot that you want to say, but there are much healthier outlets for these feelings. It’s best to avoid all things tied to the charge until it has been sorted.
Take Care Of Your Mental Health
Being accused of a serious crime can dramatically alter your mental landscape. For many people, this is the worst possible experience they can think of. Take a breath. There are plenty of people in this world who were accused of a heinous crime and who have gone on to live happy and fulfilling lives afterwards. Make sure to take time to step back and breathe. Stand up and stretch. Exercise if you’re able to. Eat healthily and stay hydrated. Learn some breathing techniques that can help lower stress. You’re not going to be able to accomplish as much if you’re in the midst of a mental breakdown as you will be able to if you’re calm and collected.
Your Feelings Make Sense
It’s normal to feel guilty when people tell you you’ve done something wrong, even if you haven’t actually done that wrong thing. It’s also normal to feel guilty when people are questioning you. This comes from a lot of messed up parenting and education standards within our culture that teach children that being “good” is the most important thing if they want to be loved and cared for. Since kids need adults to stay alive, this often means we’re programmed to think being “good” equals “surviving.” Children learn at a young age to associate accusations of being bad with death. This isn’t actually how things work, but it’s how we feel they work. Your emotions at this time—whatever they are—make sense.
The above information should have outlined the initial steps you need to take to protect yourself after you’ve been presented with grave criminal charges. An attorney can help you tailor these to your particular situation.