If someone has witnessed a crime in Virginia, it is a good idea to speak with a Virginia criminal defense attorney before speaking with the authorities, even if the authorities only want to ask a person questions about being a witness in the Virginia criminal case. An experienced lawyer will be able to ensure that all the individual’s rights remain protected and that they do not say anything which may incriminate them later on. To discuss what you should know before speaking with law enforcement, call and schedule a consultation today.
It is important to consult with an attorney before acting as a witness in a Virginia criminal case for a few reasons. First and foremost, it is important to remember that just because the police tell a person they are not charging them with the crime doesn’t mean they won’t charge the person with the crime in the future. Their statement does not mean they are not collecting evidence against that person. When somebody speaks with a police officer about an incident, the officer is writing down every bit of information that person says. That information can be used against the person; even if the police never intended to charge them with something initially.
Secondly, it is important to note that just because the information a person knows doesn’t seem to be incriminating to them, there might be a situation where their involvement in the original case puts them at risk of being charged. It is important for someone to speak with a defense attorney to find out if any of their actions could be held against them later on.
Lastly, it is important to speak with an attorney to know what effect, if any, their statements as a witness will have on the case. For example, if police officers ask a person questions about a family member, they might not take that person’s words to mean the things they think that they mean. The person’s words could be used against somebody that they care about, or could be misconstrued in some manner the person did not intend and used by the police and the prosecution to convict somebody in a way the person never intended. For this reason, it is important to speak with a lawyer to find out whether that is something a person can avoid by only answering certain questions.
When somebody speaks with a police officer, the conversation they have with the officer about what the law enforcement agency is currently investigating can lead to separate charges being filed. When police officers find out information about a case, or when they are investigating a case to file charges, they come in to the situation looking for as many witnesses as they can to find out as much information and collect as much evidence as they can.
While they are collecting the evidence about a certain charge, the police listen for any other criminal activity. This is just part of their job and it’s something they routinely do. If someone thinks they are answering questions about what they observed on the certain day, they can accidentally expose themselves to charges, for example, for a conspiracy to commit a crime, some kind of accomplice liability, or for further collaboration with their suspect.
Additionally, a person could be charged with something that has nothing to do with the case. If the police officer speaks with a person about something they witnessed and the police understand from the person that they were engaged in some kind of illegal activity themselves at the time, the police will charge the person with that illegal activity. This is why it’s important to speak with an attorney and have the attorney facilitate these conversations.
If someone is in a vulnerable position where they could potentially be charged with the crime the police are investigating or with another crime, their attorney can provide them protection, advise them when to speak or not speak, and tell them if this is something that they could be forced to testify to as a witness in a Virginia criminal case, or if this is something where the person would need plead the Fifth. This means pleading the Fifth Amendment which is when a person exercises their right against self-incrimination and does not testify to something that would put them in the position of admitting criminal activity for which they could be convicted. An attorney can provide the best guidance on that situation.