This article discusses the following:
- Understanding the Need for Pre-Indictment and Pre-Charge Representation
- What Are My Rights Before Charges Are Filed?
- Will I Look Guilty If I Hire a Lawyer for Pre-Charge Legal Representation?
- How Long Does the Pre-Indictment Process Take?
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Why Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney when facing criminal charges
At Kolsrud Law Offices, we understand that the period before a criminal charge is officially filed against you can be uncertain and anxious. This phase, commonly known as "pre-charge," is when you are under investigation but have not yet been formally accused of a crime.
Similarly, "pre-indictment" refers to the time frame before a grand jury has issued an official indictment against you. Both of these stages are moments where legal representation can substantially impact the outcome of your case.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, nearly 5% of criminal cases are dismissed before they reach the trial stage.
This statistic underscores the importance of having a criminal defense attorney by your side, even before charges are formally filed, to help increase the likelihood of a favorable resolution or even the dismissal of your case altogether.
Understanding the Need for Pre-Indictment and Pre-Charge Representation
An important phase in any criminal case is the time before an indictment is formally made. Under Arizona law, specifically Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS) §13-1001, actions that might be perceived as steps toward a crime could have significant consequences. Law enforcement and prosecutors collect evidence at this investigation stage, often without your knowledge. Having an attorney to guide you can protect your rights and may influence the course of the investigation.
➤Some potential actions that could influence your case:
- Possession of Certain Tools: Carrying lock-picking tools or other devices commonly used for breaking and entering could be perceived as an intent to commit burglary, as stipulated under Arizona Revised Statute ARS §13-1505.
- Suspicious Financial Transactions: Frequent large cash withdrawals or overseas wire transfers could be seen as an attempt to launder money or engage in fraudulent activities.
- Communication with Known Criminals: Regularly communicating with individuals who are under investigation or have been convicted for illegal activities could make you a subject of interest to law enforcement.
- Researching Criminal Activities Online: Searching for instructions on hacking, drug manufacturing, or other illegal activities could draw attention from authorities, possibly under Arizona Revised Statute ARS §13-2316, concerning computer tampering.
- Frequent Visits to Specific Locations: Continually visiting places known for illegal activity, like known drug-dealing spots, could put you on law enforcement’s radar.
- Questionable Social Media Posts: Publicly discussing plans to engage in potentially illegal activities, even in jest, could lead to scrutiny from authorities.
- Observing Potential Targets: Consistently appearing near or surveilling a place that later becomes the target of a crime can cast you in a suspicious light, especially in the context of stalking laws under Arizona Revised Statute ARS §13-2923.
Legal representation during the pre-charge phase is equally important. If you suspect you are under investigation but have not yet been charged, an attorney can advise you on how to proceed. This advice is crucial to ensure you don't unintentionally harm your case. Arizona Revised Statutes, such as ARS §13-114 , affirm your right to legal counsel during specific procedures like line-ups and other identification methods.
➤ Examples of unintentionally harming your case include:
- Speaking Without Counsel: Making statements to law enforcement without your attorney present can lead to unintentional self-incrimination. Even seemingly harmless comments can be used against you.
- Volunteering for Identification Procedures: Participating in line-ups or other identification methods without understanding your rights can put you at a disadvantage.
- Publicly Discussing the Case: Talking about your situation on social media platforms or to individuals who are not part of your legal team can also be detrimental. These statements are often admissible in court.
- Contacting the Complainant or Witnesses: Trying to contact or influence anyone involved in the case can be seen as an attempt to tamper with witnesses, which is a serious offense under Arizona Revised Statute ARS §13-2804.
- Concealing or Destroying Evidence: While you may think that getting rid of certain items could help your case, tampering with evidence is a criminal act under Arizona Revised Statute ARS §13-2809 and can severely harm your defense.
- Failure to Report Changes: If you're required to report changes in employment, residence, or other circumstances as a condition of your bail or release and fail to do so, you may face additional charges or penalties.
By hiring an experienced attorney early, you're not just preparing for a possible trial but actively influencing whether a trial will be necessary. The involvement of an attorney during these pre-charge and pre-indictment periods can sometimes prevent charges from being filed or at least mitigate the severity of the charges and potential penalties you could face.
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What Are My Rights Before Charges Are Filed?
Being the subject of a criminal investigation can be a distressing experience. However, it's important to remember that you have specific rights even before any charges are filed against you. Understanding these rights can make a difference in how your case unfolds.
➤Constitutional Rights During an Investigation
In the United States, you're protected by the Constitution even before any criminal charges are formally brought against you. The Fourth Amendment safeguards you against unreasonable searches and seizures, requiring law enforcement to obtain a warrant for most searches of your property. The Fifth Amendment gives you the right to remain silent, offering protection against self-incrimination.
➤Arizona Revised Statutes and Pre-Charge Investigations
Specific Arizona laws also protect your rights during the investigation phase. For example, ARS §13-3883 outlines the requirements for arrest warrants, and ARS §13-114 emphasizes your right to consult with legal counsel before any identification procedures, such as line-ups or show-ups, are conducted. Understanding these statutes can offer extra layers of protection and can guide your actions during an investigation.
➤The Importance of Exercising Your Rights
Knowing your rights is one thing, but actively exercising them is another. Failure to assert your rights can result in unnecessary complications, including the possibility of self-incrimination or illegal searches. While it's always best to be polite and respectful to law enforcement, remember that you're under no obligation to answer questions or consent to a search without a warrant.
Will I Look Guilty if I Hire a Lawyer for Pre-Charging Legal Representation?
A common misconception is that hiring a lawyer during the pre-charge phase makes you look guilty. This is far from the truth. It is your constitutional right to seek legal counsel, and exercising this right should not be viewed as an admission of guilt. According to ARS §13-114, you have the right to consult with legal counsel before any line-up, show-up, or other identification procedure.
Having a lawyer by your side ensures that you are aware of your rights and that you do not inadvertently incriminate yourself during the investigation. Law enforcement agencies are more likely to respect your rights when you have representation, thereby reducing the risk of prejudicial actions against you.
How Long Does the Pre-Indictment Process Take?
The timeline for a pre-indictment process can vary widely depending on various factors, including the complexity of the case, the extent of the investigation, and the approach taken by law enforcement and the prosecutor's office
➤Typical Timeframes and Influencing Factors
The duration of the pre-indictment process can be influenced by several variables. Such as:
- Quick Resolution: In simpler cases or those with less severe charges, the pre-indictment process could be wrapped up within weeks.
- Extended Duration: For complicated or severe cases involving multiple parties, or a large volume of evidence, the process can stretch over months.
- Complexity: The complexity of the case, involving tasks like gathering evidence and interviewing witnesses, adds to the time.
- Legal and Court Schedules: The availability of legal professionals and court schedules can also impact how long this phase takes.
➤Arizona Revised Statutes Affecting the Timeline
Key Arizona laws, such as ARS §13-107, play a role in the timeline. This particular statute addresses the statute of limitations for criminal offenses, setting a deadline by which charges must be filed. If the investigation is lagging, this statutory window can prompt law enforcement to act more quickly.
Being informed about these factors allows you to better manage expectations and plan more effectively for the pre-indictment process.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I change my mind after accepting a plea deal?
- Generally, once a plea has been entered and accepted by the court, reversing it is difficult and rare. A judge would need compelling reasons to allow such a change.
What happens if I don't fulfill my end of the plea deal?
- If you fail to meet the conditions set in the plea deal, such as attending court-ordered programs, the prosecutor could seek to have the original charges reinstated.
Will accepting a plea deal affect my immigration status?
- A guilty plea could have immigration consequences, including deportation. Always consult an attorney who understands both criminal and immigration law if this applies to you.
Can I still sue the police for misconduct if I take a plea deal?
- Accepting a plea deal generally doesn't affect your ability to file a civil suit against the police for misconduct, but it could complicate your case.
Do I have to admit guilt to accept a plea deal?
- In most cases, yes. A plea deal usually involves admitting guilt to a lesser charge, although there are exceptions like "Alford pleas," where you don't admit wrongdoing but accept the deal for other reasons.
Will a plea deal show up in background checks?
- Yes, a guilty plea will appear in criminal background checks unless you later get the record sealed or expunged, which is not guaranteed.
Does the victim have any say in my plea deal?
- While the prosecutor may consult with the victim, the ultimate decision to offer a plea deal is generally up to the prosecutor and the court.
What's the difference between a plea deal and a plea agreement?
- These terms are often used interchangeably. Both refer to an arrangement between the prosecution and defense where you plead guilty under specific conditions.
Can the judge refuse to accept my plea deal?
- Yes, the judge has the discretion to reject a plea deal if they believe it doesn't serve the interests of justice or adequately protect the community.
Do I need a lawyer to accept a plea deal?
- While technically you can represent yourself, having an experienced criminal defense attorney is strongly advised to ensure that your rights are protected and that the deal is in your best interest.
Why Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney when Facing Criminal Charges
Deciding whether to accept or reject a plea deal in Arizona is a big decision with long-term effects. Understanding the types of plea deals, their good and bad sides, and what happens after you make your choice can be complicated.
At Kolsrud Law Offices, our experienced criminal defense lawyers know Arizona law and can give you the guidance you need. We can help with negotiating a better plea deal, getting your case ready for trial, or giving advice on appeals. Our team is here to support you every step of the way, call us at 480-680-9769 to set up your first free initial consultation.
An award-winning criminal defense attorney Since 2006
Why Choose Josh Kolsrud
With over 100 trials to his name, and years of experience as a state and federal prosecutor, Josh understands the law, the legal process, and your rights. Josh is also committed to representing every client with utmost integrity and dedication
Josh has prosecuted major crimes on the state and federal level, led a successful anti-human sex trafficking operation that saved lives, and argued before countless juries and justices for his clients
Josh is an expert in both Arizona and federal criminal law, and is ready to put that expertise to work for you.
As a prosecutor, Josh saw far too many defendants lose their livelihood due to poor representation. Josh will always give every client his complete attention and effort