Prefile Stage: Under Investigation for a Crime in the San Francisco Bay Area?


What You Need to Know if You Think You are Under Investigation for a Crime

The court system may seem like a maze. Once you get into the system, it is hard to find your way around and can be even harder to get out. The laws and rules of the court are complex and can be very confusing, especially for someone who is unfamiliar with them.

A criminal defense attorney from The Law Office of James Dunn can help demystify the process and answer questions about your case. He or she can explain what to expect in court and review the possible defenses for your charges. If you think you may be facing criminal charges, there are a lot of things that can lead up to your arrest.

Head Trial Attorney, James Dunn calls this 360 degrees of awareness.  The idea is to provide answers but also a better understanding of the process and the scenarios that may follow.  Below are some of the most common questions that people have when they think they might be under investigation for a crime.

What is a Pre-trial Investigation?

Unless you were caught in the act of committing an alleged crime, chances are that you will be investigated before you are arrested. An investigation is the process in which law enforcement collects evidence against you and interviews witnesses to piece together what happened during the crime. If you were charged with a DUI, the “investigation” of someone can involve simple questioning related to a traffic stop. It can be supported by a phone call or an on-the-street questioning. It can also be a visit by an officer to your home or the home of a loved one or friend.

During an investigation, the police investigator is looking for an answer that would support incrimination of the party being interviewed or someone they might know. It might simply be a discussion of what was observed. However, if you think you are being investigated for a crime, you should not talk with police without the advice of a lawyer. The goal of the investigation is to determine if a crime was actually committed, and if so, who committed it. The end result is often the arrest of one or more people.

How do You Know if You are Under Investigation?

You should be notified if you are being investigated as part of a pre-trial investigation however often you are not and instead, questions are simply asked. If you learn that you are under investigation for a crime, this is the perfect opportunity to seek the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney. They can help you understand the pre-trial investigation process and inform you of what to expect. You may be subjected to questioning from the police regarding the crime and an attorney can help guide you through that process.

“If you suspect that you are under investigation because someone told you so or because of communication to you from a detective or officer, you are welcome to call us. We’ve done our best by installing after hours answering service, text and chat feature options to make ourselves available to you 24/7,” according to Robert Preskill, an attorney at the Law Office of James Dunn.

What if the Police Want to Speak to You?

As part of the pre-trial investigation, law enforcement officials may want to speak to you and ask you questions, or even search your property. Before you answer any questions, understand that you have the right to refuse to answer anything until your attorney is present. Even at this early stage, before any arrests are made, you can benefit from having an attorney present. If asked, you have the right to say no to a car search, or a trunk search, or – if an officer knocks at your door –you can say no to an officer’s request to enter without a warrant. An attorney will  help you protect your rights during a search or questioning.

What to Do When the Police ‘Just Want to Hear Your Side of the Story’

If the police think that you have committed a crime, they may contact you and ask you to give them a statement about what happened. They may tell you that they “just want to give you a chance to tell your side of the story.” What they may not tell you is that anything you say to them can be used against you. If they have asked you to meet with them to share your side of the story, they could have already made the decision to arrest you. You may also say something that could hurt your ability to defend yourself.

Even if you are innocent, there are risks involved in talking to the police. Although you may not have actually committed the crime yourself, you could still be guilty because you encouraged another person or helped another person commit the crime. There are hundreds of criminal offenses and you may admit to committing one even when you think you are innocent and just telling your side of the story.

Can You Speak to the Police Off the Record and Give an Informal Statement?

When it comes to talking to a police officer, there is no such thing as off the record. Anything that you tell them can be used against you. Keep in mind that it is not just written and signed statements that can be used against you. Audio and video statements can also be used against you. Any admission to an officer over the phone or in person could become officer’s future
testimony and/or recorded and used against you in court.

Can You Lie to the Police?

No, while you have the right to remain silent, which is part of your Miranda rights, you do not have the right to make up facts therefore it is better to say nothing. Lying to law enforcement officials when they are investigating a crime could warrant additional criminal charges, such as obstruction of justice. These crimes are serious. Lying to the police will likely hinder your ability to properly defend yourself in the courtroom because anything you say can be used against you.

Will the Police Arrest You if You Agree to Meet with Them?

They might. It’s common that people under investigation get arrested or cited if they come to the police station to talk. They could also be planning to take a statement from you and arrest you. Sometimes the police will ask to meet with someone when they already have a warrant for that person’s arrest. Other times they are hoping to meet with someone in hopes that the person will tell them something and give them enough evidence to warrant an arrest.

Will Talking to an Attorney Before Speaking to the Police Make You Look Guilty?

It is common for people to worry that talking to an attorney will automatically make them look guilty in the eyes of the police, or make it look like they are hiding something. Attorney Robert Preskill of Law Office of James Dunn says to keep in mind that a prosecutor cannot argue that you are more likely to be guilty just because you spoke with an attorney.

“Guilty people and innocent people all need legal advice from time to time, and a discussion at the police station or with officers at your home or at your car is the wrong forum to sort out a suspect’s guilt or innocence, so do not try.”
-Attorney Robert Preskill

Mr. Preskill recomends that clients leave these issues for court where they can get a lawyer to properly present them,

Can an Attorney Prevent Criminal Charges from Being Filed Against You?

If you think you are under investigation for a crime, do not wait until you are arrested to hire an attorney. While an attorney can not keep charges from being filed, he or she can protect you during the investigation by monitoring the process that law enforcement uses to gather evidence against you and by guiding you through any questioning. A good defense attorney may also be able to convince a prosecutor not to file multiple charges, which could increase your chances of having the charges reduced or dismissed.

The attorneys at the Law Office of James Dunn have decades of experience helping guide people through criminal cases. Contact them today to schedule a consultation and make sure that your rights are protected every step of the way.