10 Reasons to Talk to a Raleigh Criminal Lawyer

There are good criminal lawyers out there, particularly in Apex, Cary, and Raleigh, North Carolina.  And there are good reasons to talk to a criminal lawyer if you think you might be the subject of a criminal investigation.

1) A criminal lawyer will advise you not to talk to police, not to talk to any investigative agencies, and not to take a lie detector exam.  It’s easy enough to say to yourself, “I would never talk to police!” when you’re sitting in the comfort of your home.  But it’s another thing to have a police detective or officer or investigator come to your home, or ask you down to the police station for a “friendly chat” to “get your side of the story.”

Even if you are as innocent as the Pope and Mother Theresa combined, it’s very, very tempting to want to “get your side of the story out there” and to “explain what happened and why you didn’t do anything wrong.”

Criminal lawyers have been through this process many times.  Criminal lawyers know how it works, and how it will sound to a jury.  Even the most honest, innocent person in the world has little inconsistencies in his story when he tells it several times.  Don’t be fooled.  A police detective is trained to ask a defendant to “tell me what happened in your own words,” and then “tell it to me one more time,” and to “explain that part again.”  Over time, stories change, not because a suspect is lying, but because no one, even someone with a great memory, remembers everything perfectly.

What are almost always minor changes in a story, will sound awfully sinister and threatening if you ever reach trial.  That’s when a prosecutor stands up and says, “Mr. Detective, when you interviewed the defendant, didn’t he say X?”  “And when you interviewed him a second time, didn’t he say Y?” And so on…

A jury can be led to believe that innocent changes in a story are not innocent, but evidence that you were either “unsure” or “being deceptive” or lying.

Criminal lawyers in Raleigh, Cary, and Apex know that there’s a time and a place to get your story out. And that’s if and when you ever go to trial.  It is absolutely essential that you have one story, and that that story be consistent with all the evidence, and that the story also be told once, at trial, with you on the stand.  It is absolutely essential that you not say anything before trial, to an investigator, to other people, to a lie detector analyst that could “be used against you in a court of law.”

2) A criminal lawyer has one job: to protect your rights.  He knows what your rights are.  He knows what the elements of the crime are.  He knows what the prosecutor will eventually need to prove in order to find you guilty.  He knows how to protect each of your rights before trial begins, to spare you from going to jail at all if possible, and to get you released from jail if necessary before trial.

3) A criminal attorney can arrange a peaceful surrender.  You’ve seen the raids on America’s Most Wanted or The First 48.  You don’t want to be the subject of a raid.  In truth, unless it’s a violent felony with some reason to think you may be dangerous or in drug cases where the police may think you’ll destroy evidence before they make it through the door, the police rarely do no-knock raids.

But that won’t stop them from coming to your work, and arresting you in front of your coworkers or employers. Or at your kid’s baseball practice. The last thing you need is to jeopardize your employment, or be arrested in front of your wife and children.  Or your husband and children. Or your friends and family.  A criminal lawyer can help arrange a peaceful surrender. Not every police detective will accept a surrender.  Sometimes they just want to do a raid, or they want to arrest you in a public.  If a police detective is dead set on arresting you in this manner, not much can be done. But in Cary, Apex, Raleigh, and surrounding communities, there are many fine police detectives and officers who understand that there’s no need to make a big scene out of an arrest.

In many cases, your criminal lawyer can facilitate a peaceful surrender.  This shows to the District Attorney and the police that you are being cooperative, while at the same time standing up for your rights.

4) You need someone – a criminal lawyer! – with a clear head to advise you.  In addition to advising you about your legal rights and your criminal situation, a criminal lawyer has been through this situation before.  Unless you’re a career criminal, you have not.  A criminal lawyer can be a voice of calming and reason.  If you’re arrested, you don’t need your husband yelling at you at that moment because he’s “freaking out.”  You don’t need your wife and children crying.  You don’t need your mom screaming, “What did you do!?”

You need someone there who knows that it’s “not the end of the world” and can calmly and carefully advise you to remain calm, to cooperate with police in the arrest and processing, while at the same time not giving up your rights.

Criminal lawyers have been through this before.  They know it’s not the end of the world.  They know how you should act, and what you should say and not say. They can also ensure that you’re treated humanely by the police.

5) Things you say to a Raleigh criminal lawyer are strictly confidential.  If you ask your best friend for advice by saying, I did “X, Y, and Z. What do you think I should do?” you are in a world of trouble. That friend can be called as a witness and compelled to testify about what you said to him.  What you said is not hearsay, and it’s not protected by confidentiality rules.

However, you can confide in an attorney. There are only a few exceptions to the confidentiality rule.  A lawyer may not keep confidential any plans you have to commit future crimes.  For instance, if you come to me and say, “I’m going to rob Bank of America tomorrow, how can I do it without getting caught” and I believe you will rob Bank of America, I am compelled to tell authorities.  However, if you come to me and say, “Last Thursday I robbed Bank of America. No one knows it was me because I wore a mask. What can I do to avoid going to prison?” I must keep that confidential because it was a crime in the past, and I can advise you about how to protect yourself.

The attorney-client confidentiality rules mean that if you talk to a criminal lawyer about your case, the criminal lawyer can advise you, and can’t tell anyone about what you told him.  In addition, a criminal lawyer will get into serious trouble if he ever reveals what you told him to another person.  An attorney-client confidentiality means that an attorney can give advice based on knowing everything about your case and situation.

An attorney-client confidentiality means that visiting a criminal lawyer early in the process gets you the best advice with the greatest protection.

6) Release from Jail.  The single most important part of the process – before a trial, that is – is a First Appearance Hearing where bail will be set.

The reason for this is that most felony cases are not put on the actual trial calendar in Wake County for at least six months.  And most serious felony cases can take between 10 and 16 months.  Some people have been in jail for two years awaiting trial.

Imagine sitting in jail for 4 months, let alone 10 or 24 months awaiting trial.  Let me give you a little hint: It’s not fun.  The conditions are awful, the food is terrible, and the other people in jail are not always the friendliest.

Your criminal lawyer can work with the District Attorney or, if necessary, in front of the judge, to try to arrange a bond that will enable you to live out in the world, continue to work at your job, go home to your family every night and not live with the constant pressure of jail.

If you don’t have a criminal lawyer representing you in front of a First Appearance judge in Wake County, you will almost definitely not get as good a hearing.  That’s because a judge will not hear about all of the reasons why she or he should let you out, or give you a bond you can make.

Getting a criminal lawyer early in the process so he can help you put together a list of reasons why the judge should set a reasonable bond for you can make all of the difference in the world.

Even if you can’t afford the criminal lawyer for your actual trial, and you’re appointed a public defender, a criminal lawyer early will possibly save you months of being in jail.

7) Release from Jail.  What I’ve written above about Release from Jail is absolutely essential. Read it again. If I could capture and share with you the stink and smell of Wake County’s jails, especially in July and August, you would understand just how important it is to get some kind of pre-trial release arrangement so that you can live a fairly normal life while you await the final disposition of your case.

I represent people at their First Appearance hearings for between $2,000 and $4,000.  That is money wisely spent, if it means keeping you out of jail for six or eight months while you await possible trial, dismissal of charges, or a plea arrangement.

8) Wake County Public Defender.  The Public Defender in Wake County is fantastic.  There are some truly fantastic lawyers who work as public defenders.  They are great lawyers, with a real sense of duty to indigent clients – the poor – who are unable to afford counsel.  If I were charged with a crime in Wake County, I would try to hire – even though it’s forbidden for them to work for private clients! – a few of the Wake County Public Defenders to represent me.

But they have a huge case load. In addition, they rarely appear at First Appearance hearings to argue bail.  That’s because they often are not appointed until after the First Appearance Hearing, where the judge will determine whether the defendant is indigent and entitled to a Public Defender.  Those two factors mean that Public Defenders may not be able to be there when you need them most.  That’s no slight against Public Defenders.  It’s just a fact of the way Public Defender Offices across the country work.

9) Protect Your Family.  Your family needs to know that you’ll be taken care of, and that your rights will be protected.  Yes, it’s a financial burden to hire an attorney.  Yes, hiring me for $2,000 or $3,000 to represent you at a First Appearance Hearing, or for a trial is not what you’d prefer to be doing with your money.

But, frankly, given what’s at stake – probation, a prison sentence – it is absolutely foolish not to hire a lawyer, even if only for the limited purpose of representing you and advising you what you should do preceding and during arrest.

Frankly, simple advice given early in the process can help prevent much worse consequences down the road, including very large legal bills, serious convictions, and potential prison time.

10) Peace of Mind. Some people who think they might be arrested, worry that by going to a criminal lawyer they’ll “look guilty.”  And frankly, that’s bullshit.  People go to criminal lawyers (or any lawyers, really) because they are not experts in the law, and need some advice from a lawyer.  When a criminal lawyer is involved, that doesn’t indicate guilt. It can’t be used against you as evidence of guilt in a court.  And it’s only smart.

It’s a dirty little secret that everyone in the criminal justice system – lawyers, prosecutors, police, investigators and judges – knows that the only smart thing to do when faced with a possible criminal allegation is to hire a criminal lawyer.

Every prosecutor I know would never talk to a police officer if they were under investigation for a crime.  Every police officer knows that it’s silly to talk to a police detective without a criminal defense attorney present.

The only people who think it’s bad to talk to a criminal lawyer are people who have never been arrested, or never been investigated for a crime.

But believe me, everyone else knows that if that ever happens to you, the first thing you should do is get a criminal lawyer.  Call me at (919) 352-9411 if you ever want to talk confidentially.

Damon Chetson

Damon Chetson is a Board Certified Specialist in State and Federal Criminal Law. He represents people charged with serious and minor offenses in Raleigh, Wake County, and the Eastern District of North Carolina. Call (919) 352-9411.