If you have been charged with a criminal offense in Virginia, the following are the biggest mistakes you should avoid in order to keep your situation from getting any worse. To learn more call and schedule a consultation with a Virginia criminal defense attorney today.
One of the biggest mistakes that you should avoid when you’re charged with a crime in Virginia is speaking with a police officer. Although it’s important to be polite and truthful with police officers and to identify yourself if asked, it is not a good idea to speak with a police officer about your case without an attorney present.
A lot of people make this mistake because they are told by police officers that if they just talk about what happened, then they’ll be free to go or charges will not be brought against them. However, this is almost never the case. Speaking with a police officer from the beginning without an attorney simply helps the police officer get the evidence needed to charge you with a crime, and in some cases, that’s the evidence that might get you convicted of the crime in court. So that’s the first mistake that people often make: speaking with a police officer about the details of the case without an attorney present.
To avoid making this mistake, be polite and cordial to police officers, but do not speak to them about the facts of the case without speaking to an attorney first. Do not try to explain your conduct or behavior. You’ve already been charged, the chances of the police changing that decision based upon something you say is extremely unlikely. But the chances that they will use your statements later at trial against you is entirely possible. Politely refuse to speak with police. Police can’t make you talk, as you have certain Constitutional protections.
Second, and along the same lines, you should also avoid waiving your right to silence. This is often called your Miranda Right, and police officers will often ask you if you want to waive it in order to speak with them about your case. A lot of people will waive this right and answer some questions. But this is a mistake. Again, you shouldn’t be speaking with police officers at all, and in particular, waiving your right to silence at the beginning of your conversation with a police officer—even if you don’t have anything to say—is never a good idea in Virginia.
Other mistakes to avoid when you are charged with a crime in Virginia are talking about your case with your friends, posting any information about the case on social media or otherwise revealing anything about your case to anyone besides your attorney. People sometimes forget that police officers and prosecutors are extremely adept at finding information online and through witnesses, and more often than not, comments that people make to their friends or on social media will come back to haunt them. These communications can be used as evidence in a case later on, and people often don’t think about this when they’re initially frustrated with their case and feel like saying something about it. If you’re charged with a crime, it’s important to avoid talking about the case altogether.
Another common mistake made people charged with an offense is to try to reach out to the complaining witness and apologize or try to make things right. Once the charge is pending, it is already out of the hands of the complaining witness or victim. It is now the prosecutor who decides whether a case will proceed, even if the “victim” no longer wants to prosecute. And just like in talking to police, anything you say to a complaining witness can be used against you.
An apology is essentially an admission of guilt, so you can believe that the prosecutor will use that against you to prove their case. Trying to get someone to dismiss charges either by threats or even by being kind and apologizing is not in your best interest if you’ve already been charged with a crime and worse, it can often be used to hurt you at trial.
Also, do not reach out to other parties involved in the offense, and if they reach out to you then politely decline to speak with them. Once charged, the best plan is to keep quiet, speak only to your attorney about your case, and let you and your attorney figure out the best way to go forward.
Another mistake that some people make when charged with a crime in Virginia is not hiring an attorney. A lot of people show up to their trial date, waive their right to an attorney and elect to represent themselves. And some people do this even when they are faced with jail time as a result of a conviction. Doing this puts you at an extreme disadvantage because you’re going in without access to discovery, without investigation and without any of the experience and defense preparation that an attorney brings to the table. Then, if you’re convicted of a crime, you’re left to deal with the consequences of the conviction when really you should have hired an attorney or at least consulted with an attorney prior to the court case.