Being accused of a crime when you're innocent can be terrifying, and unfortunately, being innocent doesn't necessarily mean that you'll walk free. In 2015 alone, 149 people who had on average spent 15 years in jail were found innocent and released. In fact, some estimates claim that there may be close to 120,000 innocent people locked away in American jail cells.
To keep yourself safe and avoid an unnecessary conviction, you need to follow these tips.
1. Hire an Attorney
Being accused of a crime is not something to take lightly. You should contact an attorney as soon as possible. Choose an attorney who is experienced in criminal law as they are best suited to help you navigate this process.
2. Find Out What the Exact Charges Are
If you're unsure of what the charges are, it can be impossible to let your attorney know what you need. If someone has threatened to charge you with a crime, that’s not the same as actually going to the police. Once a formal charge has been made, the police will let you know.
If you are out of town or otherwise unreachable, you may want to see if there's a warrant out for your arrest. In California, you can find out if there's an outstanding warrant by contacting the courthouse clerk or the sheriff's office in your county. Your lawyer can also help you check for a warrant.
3. Make a Plan for Your Arrest
If you haven't already been arrested, you need to plan what you are going to do if that happens. If the police show up at your front door with a warrant for your arrest, is there someone to watch your children or pets? Do you have the ability to miss time at work? If possible, you need to deal with concerns like that before they become a reality.
4. Don't Allow Anyone to Search Your Home Without a Warrant
Depending on the nature of the accusation, the police may want to search your home. You may think that's not a big deal since you're innocent, but you don't know what they might find. To be on the safe side, do not let anyone into your home unless they have a warrant.
5. Stay Silent
While arresting you, the police should read you the Miranda Warning. This reminds you of your right to be silent, and more importantly, it highlights the fact that anything you say can be used as evidence in a trial.
Don't risk accidentally incriminating yourself; choose to stay silent. Do not speak until your lawyer is with you. Your lawyer can help to ensure that you don't accidentally admit to any crimes you didn't commit.
6. Don't Contact the Accuser
Although it may be tempting to contact the person who has accused you, do not reach out to him or her. That individual could record you and use the recording out of context to make it appear as if you have confessed to the crime. Additionally, with emotions running high, you may say or do something you regret to that individual.
Direct all communication through your attorney, and stay as far away from that individual as possible.
7. Consider Suing for Defamation
Even if your lawyer successfully proves your innocence, the accusations can hurt you. After the criminal trial, you may want to bring a defamation lawsuit against your accuser. If your reputation has suffered or if you have experienced other damages, this type of personal injury suit can help you get the compensation you deserve.
If you have been falsely accused of a crime, contact us to help you. At A Gonzalez Law Firm, P.L.L.C., we specialize in criminal law, personal injury, family law and estate planning.