Situations when a person is wrongfully convicted of a crime are not as rare as some of you might think. And instances when defendants get a harsher punishment than they truly deserve are even more common. In order not to end up in such a situation and protect one’s rights, one should follow certain guidelines. In this article, criminal defense lawyers at New York firm Joseph Potashnik and Associates explain what a person should do to prove their innocence and minimize negative consequences of a criminal investigation and prosecution.
Possible Reasons for Prosecution
There are a couple of things that most commonly make innocent people targets of criminal investigations and prosecutions.
- First of all, you might be falsely identified by a victim or a witness. This may happen by mistake – you may simply look like the real perpetrator.
- An informant may falsely identify you as the suspect, sometimes intentionally.
- Also, there is a chance that the situation is a result of the officials’ misconduct – either intentional or not. The agents and prosecutors may have their own motives.
- Forensic specialists do make mistakes. Therefore, it is worth considering hiring an independent forensic expert.
Whatever your concerns are, be sure to talk them over with your lawyer.
What to Do if You Are Wrongfully Accused of a Crime
When wrongfully charged with a crime, a common mistake is to think that since you know you’re innocent, you’ve got nothing to worry about, and the situation will resolve in a stress-free way and very quickly. That is not true. Building a strong defense for the non-guilty person is just as difficult as if the defendant were targeted rightfully. For many people who get in such situations, this time is the most trying in their life, and also very expensive. But honestly, isn’t one’s freedom worth it all? Besides, if and when the trial ends in the defendant’s favor, he or she may have a chance to recover the expenses or at least some part of it. So the point is that, guilty or not, the person should be very active and careful when under criminal investigation or prosecution.
Here are the steps we propose the defendant should take.
Hire a legal counsel as quickly as you can, but don’t rush into paying the first lawyer you meet – if possible, take your time to find the best-suited criminal defense attorney for your specific case. Our recent blog article on how to find an attorney in New York may be helpful. We put this point first because it really matters at which point of time a lawyer intervenes and starts dealing with your case.
Stay calm whatever happens. Most people don’t know they are targeted by the investigators until the police officers show up at their door. It is a shock for them, especially if they are sure they didn’t do anything criminal. It is only natural for any person to start panicking in such situation. However, this is the last thing you should do, otherwise the consequences may be severe.
Don’t talk to the police or agents without a lawyer. If you haven’t been charged with a crime, but there is an ongoing investigation, then agents may still approach you to get some documents or ask a couple questions. However, in this case they won’t read you your Miranda rights. On the contrary, they may assure you that it is not you who is targeted in the investigation or that at this stage you can safely talk to them without being afraid that what you say will be later used against you. That is not true, so stay vigilant.
Decline searches, tests and files requests unless the agents have a warrant or a subpoena. Even if the investigators do have a subpoena, it is served in advance so that the subpoenaed person has enough time to gather the necessary records or prepare for the testimony – and also try to avoid a subpoena or minimize the number of subpoenaed documents.
Don’t alter or destroy any records when you find out that you are investigated or prosecuted. This will make your defense much more complicated and even can add some more charges to your indictment.
Don’t contact the victim or witnesses. Any contact with them should be carried out by your attorney. Otherwise you may be additionally accused of trying to intimidate the person.
Put together any evidence you can gather. Tell your lawyer about any minor thing that can be in any way related to the case. Remember where you were at the time of the crime, search for any people who can testify about your alibi, call department stores or malls or other public places having video surveillance to request the records, collect checks, ATM receipts or information about your credit card purchases.
Appeal. Inadequate criminal defense is another thing that may lead to a person being convicted of a crime he or she didn’t commit. Mind that a legal counsel you retain might be the best criminal lawyer, but only in a specific law field. So be sure to approach choosing an attorney carefully. Otherwise, inadequate defense may serve as a valid cause to file an appeal. However, that is not a single reason for appeals. It can also be based on the pretense of insufficient evidence of the guilty verdict, or some mistakes during the prosecution
Criminal Defense Lawyers in New York
We hope that this roadmap will serve as a helpful guide to anyone who wrongly faces criminal prosecution, civil litigation or prosecution. And if you ended up in such situation in New York or New Jersey, consider hiring attorneys at Joseph Potashnik and Associates. We are a multi-practice criminal defense law firm with a highly-experienced team of established criminal lawyers. We encourage you to browse our list of practice areas and look up our reviews for cases similar to yours and call us to set up a consultation.