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Pre-File Investigations

Most crimes occur outside law enforcements’ observation. Therefore, before charges are filed, law enforcement must investigate the crime. This is called a pre-file investigation. Pre-file investigations may take only hours or even years. Often, but certainly not always, the subject of the investigation will learn that he or she is being investigated. The police may even contact the subject of the investigation to ask questions without any suggestion that the questioning relates to potential criminal charges against the subject. For example, law enforcement officers may contact a crime suspect for a friendly chat about a “matter they are looking into.” They may ask the subject to come to the station or show up at the subject’s house to ask questions. The officers will tell the subject that his or her cooperation is voluntary and may imply that they are only enlisting the subject’s help. If you are the subject of this type of questioning, you should contact a criminal defense attorney before answering the questions.

You may feel obligated to answer law enforcement’s questions or worry that if you don’t, they will suspect you. No matter where the police question you and no matter how innocent it may seem, your cooperation is not required. Under the law, the police cannot later allege that your refusal to answer their questions implied your guilt. If you do chose to answer their questions, do so only in the presence of your defense attorney. Calling an Orange County criminal defense attorney to stand by your side during police questioning is simply the proactive and wise decision.

You may find yourself a subject of an investigation under any number of circumstances. For example, a Nosy Nora calls the police to say that she sees a lot of traffic in and out of her neighbor’s house and she believes they are selling drugs. The police may stake out the residence and conduct further investigations. Perhaps you are friends with the neighbor but unaware of his suspected drug activity. You may still get caught up in the investigation. Another example might be an armed robbery is committed and the suspect is described as driving the same car you drive and looks similar to you. You may be stopped by the police for questioning. In suspected white-collar crimes, the prosecution may investigate for months, even years, and you may find yourself caught in that investigation simply because you work for a crooked boss. In these examples, you are innocent but don’t imagine that your innocence will be obvious to the police. Even if you are innocent, you should wait for the presence of your attorney before answering any questions. It is your right!

If You Think You are Under Investigation

Often the subject of an investigation will get wind that he or she is being investigated. This may be obvious if the police want to question you or ask to search your person or property. If you are not under arrest, you are within your rights to refuse a search of your person (unless it is a pat-down search for weapons upon the officer’s reasonable suspicion). Furthermore, the police are permitted to search your property only under very specific circumstances. If that property is your home, the police need a warrant to search (with some very narrow exceptions). If the police question you, you are not obligated to give them any information except your identifying information. Remember: Anything you say can be used against you. You will not be giving this warning unless you are under arrest so be aware, if you talk to the police as part of an investigation and you are later arrested and charged, the statements you made during the investigation can be used against you. Before you cooperate, call a criminal defense attorney, even if you believe you are entirely innocent.

How might cooperating get you in trouble? You might believe you have done nothing illegal, so you answer the officers’ questions. Turns out, you have been tangentially involved in unlawful activity, you may have had your questions about the activity but convinced yourself that your role was innocent. This often happens in cases of white-collar crime. The police may box you into making incriminating statements that you don’t even realize are incriminating until you find yourself charged with a crime. Orange County criminal defense attorney William Weinberg has unfortunately seen too many clients who wanted to get on law enforcement’s “good side” by cooperating only to find out that they implicated themselves in a crime. An experienced criminal defense attorney who is present during questioning can properly advise you regarding which questions you may answer.

Are You Under Investigation? Be Proactive

There is another reason you should call a criminal defense attorney anytime you believe you are being investigated and before any charges are filed. A criminal defense attorney can uncover the mysteries of the investigation. It is unnerving to know you are under investigation: What do the police think they know? Who are the witnesses? What crimes are alleged? A criminal defense attorney may be able to find out the answers even before any charges are filed.

Your defense attorney may contact the prosecution to inquire about the investigation. Don’t worry, this won’t trigger charges that weren’t coming down the pike anyway. In fact, once your defense attorney is apprised of the investigation and potential charges against you, he or she may be able to head the charges off at the pass. For example, if you are just a collateral defendant, your defense attorney may be able to convince the prosecution to drop the investigation against you. In other cases, understanding what the investigation is about gives you a head start in your defense. Perhaps a defense investigation will reveal inaccuracies in law enforcement’s investigation or defense witnesses can be identified and contacted.

When you are under investigation, you are not under any law enforcement constraints. If you have not been arrested, you can travel freely and go about your normal life. However, be mindful that if you travel for a long period of time or move out of state, the prosecution might try to use this to allege you were avoiding the investigation or charges. By hiring a criminal defense attorney to represent you while you are under investigation, he or she can run interference for you and avoid the appearance that you are trying to dodge the prosecution.

If You are Under Investigation or Believe You are, Call Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney William Weinberg for Immediate Help

Attorney Weinberg is committed to your defense. If you are under investigation, or even believe you are, the time to call a defense attorney is now. Attorney William Weinberg has been representing individuals suspected or accused of a crime for over 25 years. He has a good rapport with the prosecution and will protect your rights to the full extent that the law allows.. Attorney Weinberg is available for a free consultation to discuss the circumstances of your case and advise you of your options. Contact him through this online form, or by emailing him at bill@williamweinberg.com or by calling his Irvine office at (949) 474-8008.

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