Top 10 Things To Do If You've Been Charged with a Crime
Updated: May 16, 2020
Regardless of what crime you are charged with, it is an extremely serious matter. If you are convicted of a misdemeanor, you may be facing jail time, loss of driving privileges, fines and possible restitution. If you are convicted of a felony, you may likely face prison time, fines, and penalties that will punish you well after you have served your time.
To have a chance to avoid these serious consequences, you need to take the proper steps from stage one of your case. Here are the steps you need to take if you are charged with a crime in the State of Ohio:
1. Exercise Your Right to Remain Silent
You have probably heard the words, “You have the right to remain silent…” in dozens of movies and TV shows about cops and the criminal justice system. But your right to remain silent is not something that is just made up because it sounds good on TV.
The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution gives all of us the right to refuse to incriminate ourselves in a criminal case. The easiest way to avoid incriminating yourself is to remain silent.
If you find yourself in custody, refuse to answer any questions and politely insist that you will not answer anything without an attorney present. You do not need to act hostile toward the police in order to exercise your right to remain silent. Politely tell police that you are choosing to exercise your Fifth Amendment rights.
Bottom line: Keep your mouth shut.
2. Remain Calm and Polite
This might be one of the most difficult ideas to remember, especially if you believe you are innocent or do not know why the police are questioning you. Being questioned by authorities, who are often aggressive, can be frustrating and scary.
However, even if you believe you have been wrongfully arrested and that your rights have been violated, do not resist arrest or attempt to argue with police officers. Resisting will make you appear guilty and could result in additional charges being filed against you.
3. Contact an Attorney Immediately
Call an criminal justice attorney if you are charged with a crime in the State of Ohio. The single most crucial step in the process of defending yourself against a criminal charge is to contact an attorney. This is even more critical if facing a felony charge in Ohio. Every moment you spend in custody without an attorney fighting for you hurts your case.
The prosecutor will know all the technicalities of the law that you may not know, and most of all, they will know how to sell you on agreeing to a plea bargain that will seem like your best option. Having your own attorney will even the playing field, and allow you to avoid taking what seems like an easy deal when it is may not in your best interest.
Additionally, your attorney can help you understand and exercise your rights so that you do not set yourself up for an easy conviction. It is important to recognize that he police and prosecutors will be working against you; you need someone with experience on your side fighting for your freedom.
4. Know What Criminal Offense You are Facing
Most people do not realize the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony. That means they often do not understand the severity of the crime they are accused of and the harsh potential consequences they face if convicted.
Generally, a misdemeanor is punished by time in county jail, a fine or both. A felony carries more severe potential penalties, including a prison or county jail sentence. In addition, you may have to pay restitution to the victim of the crime.
You could also lose certain rights once you are released from prison if you are convicted of a felony. For instance, you might lose your right to vote and your right to own a firearm. You might be denied the chance to serve in the military or be denied a professional license.
It is important that you understand the specific charges that you face and the severity of those charges.
5. Do Not Post Bail Without Speaking to an Attorney
Many people make the mistake of posting bail for a loved one as soon as they have been arrested. This is often a very bad idea, and it is especially bad in a felony case.
You should first speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help you make the best decision as to bail by doing the following:
Don’t pay bail bonds without an attorney.
Your criminal defense attorney can review the facts of the case and determine whether bail will likely be lowered or possibly have your loved one released without having to post bail.
Your criminal defense attorney can tell you whether the charges are likely to be dropped at the arraignment. If that were to happen, the accused would be released from custody within two or three days without having to post bail.
Your criminal defense attorney may determine that it is not a good idea to bail your loved one out of jail. If it is likely that the judge will raise bail when the defendant appears in court at their arraignment, there would be a good chance that your loved one will be returned to custody. You will not be able to have the bail bond fees you paid returned to you if that were to happen.
The first call that you should make after your arrest is to an experienced criminal defense attorney who can properly guide you through the complicated issue of posting bail. If you speak to an attorney before you post bail, you could save thousands of dollars.
6. Be Honest with Your Attorney
Your criminal defense attorney will need to know the most accurate information about your case in order to properly prepare for the case and provide with you with the most adequate defense. Therefore, it is imperative that you are 100% honest with your attorney throughout the entire criminal process.
Many people are afraid to speak the truth to their attorney, which is why you should know that any information you share with your attorney is confidential. Your relationship is protected by attorney-client privilege. If your attorney chooses to share the details of your case, he or she could face discipline from the state bar, which includes the possibility of losing his or her license to practice law.
Give your attorney an honest, detailed account of what happened. The more accurate information the attorney has, the better prepared they will be to give you the best defense possible.
7. Try to Avoid Talking to Your Family and Friends about the Arrest
Only talk to your attorney about your criminal case. Unlike conversations with your attorney, those you have with your family and friends are not protected by confidentiality rules. Anything you tell them can potentially be used against you.
8. Write Down What You Remember
One of the most imperative things I tell clients who are accused of crimes in Ohio to do is to write down the facts of the case immediately.
You will be better able to give your attorney accurate information if it is fresh in your mind, and the best way to ensure that it stays fresh is to write down what you remember about the events surrounding your arrest as soon as possible. Make sure to include where you were and who you were with when the crime took place.
From the moment you are arrested, the prosecution will begin documenting everything it can about you in order to build a case to convict you. That is why you should prepare the most accurate information as possible.
9. Make a List of Witnesses
Around the same time that you write down your statement of the events, you should also write down the names and contact information of any person who could possibly testify favorably on your behalf.
Start by writing down the name of any witnesses who may have seen the alleged crime take place. Your attorney will be able to follow up with these witnesses to see if their version of the events matches up with yours.
10. Attend All Court Proceedings
With a few exceptions, a person charged with a crime must be present at all court hearings. The law places the burden on you as the defendant to know when these events are happening, and to be present for them. Work with your criminal defense attorney to create a calendar of the hearings involved in your case. Make sure you set yourself reminders and communicate with your attorney so that you do not miss these court dates. Failure to appear in court as scheduled not only makes you look bad for your criminal case, but it also could result in a warrant being issued for your arrest.
With questions in regard to the above 10 Must Do's If You've Been Charged with a Crime, please feel free to reach out to your local Coshocton Attorney by calling our offices at 330-639-8835 or visit our Facebook page for a direct PM message to Attorney Kevin Cox.