WHAT HAPPENED LAST NIGHT? AKA DO YOU NEED TO HIRE A CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY?
Bad nights. Bad decisions. Sometimes that can result in searching the internet for a criminal defense attorney. It doesn’t make you a criminal, but it does make you someone who needs a lawyer. If you woke up in jail for any reason & now have a court date, what do you do next?
Do you need to hire a criminal defense lawyer? Perhaps more importantly: Why do I need a criminal defense attorney?
Set aside the fact you’re reading this on a lawyer’s website. When you get get arrested for any reason, you’re going to have questions. You’re being accused of something you didn’t do or maybe have no recollection of doing. There’s a big difference between committing a crime and not remembering what happened. But the reality is no one is going to listen to you. No one is going to explain the process of facing criminal charges to you. That’s where your attorney comes in. A skilled criminal defense attorney will be able to answer all of the numerous questions that arise during the criminal justice process. More importantly, they can provide you with potential options and outcomes.
When you hire an attorney to show up to court with you, the message is clear: We’re ready, willing, and able to fight this case. That’s a message the criminal justice system can’t ignore. Judges and the prosecutors recognize that a person who hires a lawyer is taking the process seriously. Too many people show up to court without a lawyer and are not given the respect or treatment deserved as unrepresented defendants. The reality is that unrepresented clients have extremely worse chances of success in court when compared to people represented by lawyers. If you are charged with a crime, whether a misdemeanor or a felony, you need a criminal defense attorney. If you’re concerned about keeping your criminal record clean, or worse, going to jail, you cannot face criminal charges alone.
WHAT CAN A CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER DO FOR YOU?
● FIGURE OUT WHAT’S GOING ON: If you haven’t been arrested and the police are contacting you, an attorney can determine why they want to speak with you without subjecting you to possibly incriminating yourself. If you have been arrested and released with a court date, all you are going to have is a bond slip listing the name of the charge. An attorney can investigate court records to find any preliminary police reports. This allows you to start building a criminal defense as soon as possible. A criminal defense attorney can also issue subpoenas to any private businesses necessary to preserve evidence for your defense. Finally, once you do go to court, your criminal defense attorney will file a motion for discovery. This formally requires the State to turn over all the evidence they have against you to your attorney.
● ACT AS A BUFFER BETWEEN YOU & THE COPS:
The 5th and 6th amendment of the United States constitution exist for a reason. Never be afraid to use these rights. Hiring an attorney prior to an arrest or interview with the police can & does prevent people from being charged. If you are suspected of a crime and the police are contacting you, a criminal defense attorney can determine why they want to speak with you without subjecting you to possibly incriminating yourself. When you are arrested or being investigated for a crime, you need someone to speak for you. Someone who can act as a buffer between you and the people trying to put you in jail. Fact is, no matter how many times criminal defense lawyers tell people not to talk to the police, too many people suspected of crimes talk to the police. Regardless of whether or not they say you’re a suspect, if the police want to talk to you: DO NOT DO SO WITHOUT A LAWYER.
Remember: YOU HAVE NO LEGAL OBLIGATION TO SPEAK TO THE POLICE. The only question is whether or not you can leave. If arrested, you can’t leave. If not under arrest, you can leave. In neither situation do you have to, nor should you, talk to the police without an attorney.
WHAT TYPES OF CHARGES CAN BE AVOIDED BY NOT TALKING TO THE COPS?
A basic principle of criminal law is that the State has to prove a defendant’s mental state beyond a reasonable doubt. The State can try to prove knowledge using circumstantial evidence. So what is legally considered circumstantial evidence?
“Circumstantial evidence is the proof of facts or circumstances which give rise to a reasonable inference of other facts which tend to show the guilt or innocence of the defendant.” IPI 3.02.
Circumstantial evidence is the most common method the State uses to prove knowledge. It’s also the weakest type of evidence the State has in a criminal case. Direct evidence, specifically what the law calls “admissions, are what the police really want when preparing their case against you.
Because what’s better than getting the evidence straight from horse’s mouth, from the defendant himself? Not much. Putting the defendant’s words on trial is the best way for the State to secure a conviction. Even if the defendant doesn’t blatantly admit to the crime, whatever was said will be used to support the evidence the cops already have. Most often, the statements of the defendant are used to prove the element of knowledge.
Knowledge under the law is defined as when a person, “is consciously aware that the result is practically certain to be caused by his conduct.” 720 ILCS 5/4-5(b). That sounds like a lot of legal mumbo-jumbo, but it basically means awareness. What were you aware of?
That’s what the cops want to know and why it’s critical to prevent that evidence from ever existing. So many investigations depend on the words of the defendant to get the police’s proof over the finishing line, to get them to probable cause. Certain types of criminal offenses are
particularly useful examples of how a defendant’s own words can transform a winning case into a losing case.
● Aggravated Unlawful Use of Weapons/Firearm Offenses: The Aggravated Unlawful Use of a Weapon statute starts out with the following language: “[a] person commits the offense of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon when he or she knowingly...” 720 ILCS 5/24-1.6(a) (emphasis added). Therefore, proving knowledge is essential to the State’s case. If the gun is in your waistband, proving knowledge isn’t going to be hard, even without your statements. However, let’s say the gun is found underneath the front passenger seat of a car with 4 occupants. Even if you tell the police that the gun belongs to one of the other people in the car, you’ve just screwed yourself. You’ve proved you were aware that a gun was in the car. If no one else talks about the gun, you’re now the only person in that car admitting to knowledge of the gun. You’ve provided enough to be charged and more than the three others to be found guilty at trial.
● Possession of Controlled Substances: Drug Offenses: All of the illegal narcotics/controlled substance laws begin with a familiar phrase: It is unlawful to knowingly (possess)(possess with intent to deliver) (manufacture or deliver) a controlled substance (marijuana, cocaine, heroin, etc). In drug cases, knowledge of the drugs is probably the most important piece of evidence against you. Without knowledge of the drugs, how can you reasonably be said to be selling or delivering these drugs? Certainly, the facts and circumstances of each specific drug arrest can prove your knowledge, but don’t make one of those facts be your own statements. Even if the drugs are found in your pocket, you gain nothing from talking to the police. Don’t add to the evidence, even if the evidence is substantial.
● Felony Murder: If someone is killed during the course of a so-called “forcible felony,” all of the participants in the crime are charged with first degree murder. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t kill the person, you are still looking at the same charge and punishment as the killer. The key thing the State needs to prove in Felony Murder case is the commission of the “forcible felony.” In Illinois, a forcible felony is sexual assault, robbery, burglary, arson, kidnapping, aggravated battery, and any other felony that involve the use of or threat of physical force or violence. 720 ILCS 5/2-8. Basically, did you know that this “forcible felony” was going to happen? Did you agree to participate in it?
Take a scenario that is seen in courts throughout Illinois: Two guys want to rob a drug dealer who one of them knows. That guy sets the whole thing up by text, the other brings the gun. During the drug deal, which both are present for, a struggle happens and the guy with the gun shoots the drug dealer. Sometime later, both guys are arrested. The
guy who set up the drug deal decides he’s good, he didn’t kill anyone, he can talk to the police. He waives his Miranda rights and agrees to speak to the police without a criminal defense attorney present. The cops ask him two questions: Did you setup and participate in the robbery? Yes. Did you know that your friend brought a gun? Yes. Boom. He’s just bought himself a 1st degree murder charge.
In the above described situation, had the guy who set up the murder not talked to the police, there’s a good chance he would not be charged with 1st degree murder. Robbery charges maybe, but first degree murder? Unlikely. Why? The State would have an extremely hard time proving he knew, or that it was foreseeable to know, that the other guy had a gun and therefore could use it during the commission of the crime. But with his statements, they’ve got all they need. Knowledge of a gun. And if he knew a gun was going to be used in the forcible felony/crime of violence, the law says he should have known someone could die when he set up that robbery.
● Sex Cases: Sex offenses, like all criminal offenses, also require the mental state of knowledge. These cases also often involve any physical evidence against the defendant. If you talk to the police when they are investigating you for a sexual offense, you are inserting your own words into the evidence. Sexual accusations are bad enough on their face, you don’t need the police twisting your words into guilt. It is horrendous to be accused of such crimes. Most people naturally want to deny they did anything resembling a sex offense. You will get an opportunity to do this, just don’t do it with the police. Do it in court. Do it after you’ve had the benefit of seeing all the State’s evidence against you. Because in sex cases, none of your words can be misinterpreted. You need to know what exactly you are being accused of and how to respond. You can’t take any risks when facing sex offense charges.
Remember: When you are being investigated for any criminal offense by the police, it’s not the police you need to convince. Repeat. The cops arresting you are not the ones who decide whether you did it or not. That’s for a judge or jury. Plus, when the police have arrested you, they don’t believe you are innocent. You can’t convince them. Trying to do so will only dig you into a deeper hole because they’ve already made up their mind. You’re in custody. You can’t leave. The time to prove your innocence comes later.
BUT I’M INNOCENT? WHY SHOULDN’T I TALK TO THE POLICE?
You will get your time to prove your innocence. You will get your time to tell your side of the story. What really happened. What you remember happened and not what somebody or the cops say you did. But if you talk to the police after being arrested you risk screwing up your case and getting a conviction even if you didn’t commit the crime. Why? You open yourself up to contradictions and inconsistencies
A skilled lawyer can take a contradiction or inconsistency in what you previously said and turn your testimony into absolute childs play. Lawyers love inconsistencies. Point them out is our bread and butter. The best criminal defense attorneys know how to use them to defend their clients against people claiming they did something they didn’t. So can good prosecutors. Even if you are telling the truth on the witness stand, a skilled prosecutor can take one inconsistency from your previous statement and turn it into a reason a judge and jury shoudn’t believe you. If you never made that previous statement to the police, the State has nothing to show your words on the witness stand are inconsistent. Whatever you say will be judged on your words alone. Not on what you’ve said before or how you said it.
Even if you don’t go to trial, if you do not make statements to the police you have leverage over the prosecution during the pre-trial phase of a criminal case. Why? For the exact reason that the State knows they have to prove knowledge in your case. Your chances of getting a dismissal highly improve, as well as your power in plea negotiations to get charge reductions or avoid jail time.
WHAT TYPE OF CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER DO I NEED?
If you get arrested & have questions, you need a skilled Chicago criminal defense attorney to protect your rights and promptly answer all these questions. Finding that type of Chicago criminal defense lawyer is a different story. Lots of lawyers want you to believe they’re the top criminal defense attorneys in the city by making guarantees. Don’t be fooled, guarantees are for used car salesmen & late night cable shopping, not criminal defense cases. If an attorney guarantees your case will get dismissed, the only thing you are guaranteed is giving them your hard earned money. What we can guarantee at Robert Callahan & Associates is a team of lawyers dedicated to finding the best way to protect your rights, liberty, and life when facing criminal charges. We know how to beat cases because we have. Call us at 312 322 9000.
RECENT WINS FEBRUARY 2019
● MF-1st Degree Murder- acquitted
● HT- Battery to a child- Dismissed
● AR-Order of Protection- Dismissed
● BI- Possession of Cannabis-cl. 4; Unlawful Possession of Weapon- Dismissed
● TT-Deceptive Practices- cl. 4 felony- Dismissed
● CD- DUI reduced to reckless driving