We don't often talk on LessonsInLaw.com about criminal matters because 1) it is ALWAYS possible to have a lawyer if you are accused of a crime and there is a possibility of jail time, and 2) I think that anyone who believes they can represent themselves in a criminal case better than an attorney is being arrogant and/or foolish.
There are a few sections of the law where even lawyers hire lawyers to represent them and criminal law is one of those areas. That should tell you something.
However, it is important to know some basics just so that you can be safe and be sure your lawyer is performing well. Eventually we will have a Guerrilla Guide to DWIs for this purpose but for now I want to just hit a few high points about what to do if arrested.
Everyone's immediate thought after getting arrested is to get out of jail. I have seen people pay enormous amounts of money to hire a bail bondsman to get them out and then not be able to afford the quality of attorney they would like to have.
Unless the bond is negligible then the first thing to look at after being arrested is whether you can hire an attorney and have them make the bail bond as a part of their fee. In many cases it will be only slightly more expensive to hire the lawyer and have them both represent you and make the bail bond than it will be for a bondsman only.
In addition, the lawyer will be looking out for your best interests and is not likely to file and withdraw from the bail bond as quickly as a bail bondsman would. In some cases, bail bondsmen have you checking in every week and if you miss the check in or they don't get the word from their staff that you checked in then they will file a motion to be released from the bond and you will have a warrant out for your arrest. When you are arrested the bail bondsman will be released of his obligation, they get to keep the money you pay them, and then you have to pay to be bonded out again.
This rarely happens with a lawyer on the bond.
In addition, under no circumstances should anyone who is being investigated or who has been arrested talk to anyone about their case except their lawyer. They should not talk to the police under any circumstances without a lawyer present and some kind of deal arranged where the defendant receives something in exchange for the information they provide.
It is becoming common for the police to investigate someone, arrest them on little or no evidence, and then tell them "this will go away if you just help us out". The help may be acting as a buyer for them in an undercover operation, providing names, or other activities which are dangerous. The lawyer can look at the case and advise you on whether the police really do have a case and then make sure that any deal you get is in writing. I hear from people all the time who have cooperated with the police but the charges don't go away until they do "one more thing" to help.
Remember, when you are facing criminal liability the only one, besides yourself, who is obligated to have your best interests at heart is your lawyer. Representing yourself is great and we fully support that right except when your liberty is at stake and unless you have absolutely no other choice.
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