Q: When should I retain a lawyer to represent me?
A: You should retain a criminal defense lawyer as soon as you become aware that the police are investigating you, or if you have been charged with a crime. The earlier you contact a lawyer the better. If you have yet to be charged with a crime, an attorney can intervene with the police and either prevent an arrest or, if you are going to be arrested, arrange for your surrender at a time and in a manner that minimizes embarrassment to you or your family. Retaining a lawyer also prevents the police from questioning you. The answers you give to the police may be used against you in court.
Q. Do I need a criminal defense lawyer if I have been falsely accused?
As with many things in life, the world is not perfect and police officers do make mistakes. There have been countless stories about those who have been falsely accused of rape, domestic violence, murder, and even drug possession because officers were either making negligent mistakes in their investigation, intentionally framing suspects, or intentionally lying about probable cause to justify an otherwise unlawful search of a home, car, or even of someone's person. Since the inception of DNA testing in criminal cases, innocent people who served years in prison have been exonerated by DNA results which show they were innocent of the crime. You may think that if you simply meet with the police and explain your story, the case will go away. Maybe, but not in every case. After a suspect is arrested the police may feel that they have the perpetrator and are not inclined to believe what a suspect tells them. The police may not have the time or motivation to fully investigate a client's story. At that point, it is too late to simply tell your story. The suspect knows is arrested, placed into custody, and does not know how to clear his or her name. Attorney O'Neil has represented clients who are simply innocent — these have proven to be some of his most difficult cases. As one can see, a person who is completely innocent may be in the greatest need of representation. We have experience with client's who have been arrested and jailed pending a trial, who we have ultimately proven did not commit the offense at all.
Q. The police have asked me to come to the police station and speak with them. What should I do?
There have been numerous cases where a person has been convicted of a crime because he or she made admissions of involvement in a crime to the police when questioned at the police station. If you are at the police station and you are being asked questions, ALWAYS be polite and cooperative. You should provide the police with your name and other identifying information but DO NOT discuss any specific information with them. Regardless of how the police officer is treating you, he or she is looking for evidence that could be used against you in court later on. You should tell the police that you do not want to speak with them until you speak with an attorney.
Q. What happens if I am arrested?
When you get to the police station, you will go through the “booking” procedure. At this time, you will be photographed and fingerprinted. You will be required to give the booking officer biographical information. You will be able to make a telephone call to either a lawyer or a family member. At some point after that, a bail commissioner may come to the police station. The bail commissioner may look at the facts of your case and whether or not you have a previous record and determine whether you should be released from the police station. If the bail commissioner decides you can be released, you would have to pay a small fee ($40.00) and sometimes set a bail amount. Once the bail is received, the police will release you. Before you leave, the police will give you a form which gives you the date and time of your first court hearing.
Q. What is bail?
Bail is a sum of money that is held by the Court to ensure that an accused person will return to court when he or she is required to do so. As long as the person comes to as required, the bail will be returned at the end of the case, even if the person is ultimately found guilty and goes to jail. However, if the person does not show up for court, the bail will be forfeited and cannot be returned.
Q. If a bail is set for me, do I have to put the money up?
No. Anyone can post bail for another. But the person posting the bail must realize that if the suspect fails to show up for court, the bail money will be forfeited.
Q. Should I take a breathalyzer if I am arrested?
When you apply for and receive a driver's license, you consent to take a breathalyzer. If you refuse to take the breathalyzer, your license to operate will be suspended for 180 days. Breathalyzer results are not always accurate depending upon a number of factors, including the maintenance of the machine by the police. A police officer will likely tell you that it is beneficial to take the test because, if you blow a .08 or above, the license suspension will only be 30 days. However, a breathalyzer test result of .08 or above can be damaging for you so think carefully or seek the advice of an attorney before you agree to submit to the breathalyzer test.