For most folks, it's hard to consider the idea they might need to hire a criminal attorney before the state has charged them with an offense. In the world of criminal defense, though, there are plenty of reasons why an uncharged person would want to lawyer up. Here are three situations in which you might want to retain counsel, even if you're not presently facing charges.
In nearly all instances, the best way to beat a criminal charge is to prevent it from coming to pass. Not everyone will have a chance to know the police are investigating them, but it's wise to hire a criminal attorney if you do. The police may be asking around about something; it might even seem fairly minor. If it involves you in any way, the smart move is to hire a lawyer.
That applies even if the cops have told you that you're not a suspect. You can't assume you might not eventually become a suspect. Also, the term suspect has no legal strict legal meaning, and the cops aren't obliged to inform a suspect of their status. If the police are poking around, assume the worst and get a lawyer.
Serving as a Witness
Most people assume that witnesses don't face criminal exposure in court cases. However, there is always a risk that a prosecutor or judge might consider a witness obstructive. They may say a witness lied under oath. Similarly, they might claim a witness hid or destroyed evidence. These are what criminal defense professionals call process crimes.
One of the crazier parts of this scenario is that the court's treatment of a witness doesn't necessarily have anything to do with what happens to the defendant. There are times where defendants skate by on the charge they were facing while witnesses go to jail.
Criminal Exposure in Non-Criminal Proceedings
While civil, family, tax, and business law are distinct fields from criminal proceedings, you can still have criminal exposure in those types of cases. Bear in mind that a case could begin as a purely civil case until a judge decides to file a criminal referral.
For example, an accountant might have to testify in a civil fraud case. This may not seem like a full-on criminal case, but the court could decide there is a significant enough breach of the public trust to justify a criminal referral. It's better to think about potential criminal exposure in civil proceedings before things get to this point. A criminal attorney can tell you what your rights are so you can try to limit your exposure.
For more information, contact a criminal defense attorney in your area.