In some cases, an individual is charged with a criminal offense because a law enforcement officer actually observes a crime or is called to the scene of a recent crime. In other cases, an individual is only charged after a lengthy investigation by law enforcement. This often prompts the question “ Do I need a lawyer before I am charged? ” The simple answer to that question is “yes”, you should consult with a lawyer as soon as you have reason to believe you are the subject of a police investigation. A better understanding of the way in which a crime is investigated and charges are filed may help explain why you need a lawyer before being charged.
Unfortunately, many people fail to consult with an attorney when they realize they are the subject of a criminal investigation. The most common reason given for this failure is that people are concerned it makes them look guilty if they retain an attorney prior to being charged with a crime. The truth of the matter is that if the police are investigating you, they likely already think you have some level of culpability in the crime being investigated. Hiring an attorney will not cause the police to conclude you are guilty; however, it could prevent you from being found guilty down the road.
During the investigation stage of a crime is when the police gather the evidence needed to provide the probable cause required to make an arrest. Sometimes evidence is tangible, such as a weapon, fingerprints, or financial records. Other times, evidence comes in the form of information. Law enforcement officers are skilled at gathering information. Specifically, they are trained to get people to offer incriminating information during a conversation. If the police show up at your door and tell you they “just want to clear some things up”, or “get your version of events” or “rule you out as a suspect” what this really translates to is they want to question you in the hope that you will say something that is useful to them. Remember, the job of a law enforcement officer is to identify and arrest people who have committed crimes, not help prove that someone did not commit a crime. People talk themselves into getting arrested far more often than talk themselves out of getting arrested.
You have an absolute right to consult with an attorney prior to talking to the police. This right only helps you though if you exercise it. How it looks to the police is not your concern. What is your concern is protecting your rights and preventing yourself from saying something that could be misinterpreted and used against you down the line.
If you have reason to believe you are under investigation or have been named as a suspect in a criminal offense, contact the Omaha, Nebraska law office of Petersen Law Office 24 hours a day at 402-513-2180 to discuss your situation.