The short answer is, “Yes, you need a criminal defense lawyer if you are innocent.” Whenever you face criminal charges, it is best to consult with a defense attorney immediately. 

We all want to believe that our criminal justice system is fair and that the truth will prevail. However, that is not always the case. Innocent people can and do go to jail.

Regardless of the severity of the criminal charges against you, you need experienced, competent legal counsel who will fight to prove your innocence. The prosecution must prove its case against you, but you should not rely on “innocent until proven guilty” to prevent a guilty verdict. If you rely solely on your innocence instead of hiring a criminal defense lawyer, you could face severe criminal penalties. 

Why are Innocent People Charged with Crimes?

The criminal justice system is not perfect. Law enforcement officers are not perfect. They sometimes charge the wrong person for a crime.

Some reasons why an innocent person could face criminal charges include:

Mistaken Identity

Your appearance may be similar to a suspect who committed theft in your neighborhood. You could have the same name as a suspect who assaulted a person. If the police officers rush to make an arrest, they might not take the time required to verify a person’s identity. 

A witness or crime victim could make a mistake when identifying the person they believe they saw commit a crime. The witness or victim may be mistaken because the incident happened several months ago, or they were traumatized by the incident. 

False Allegations 

False allegations can be common when someone is seeking revenge. 

A person may accuse an ex-partner of domestic violence to obtain a restraining order. A restraining order could result in serious consequences for the person falsely accused of domestic violence. A parent could accuse their ex-partner of sex crimes to gain the upper hand in a child custody case. 

In some cases, a person who has been arrested for drug crimes, theft, or other crimes might “snitch” on another person to obtain a more favorable plea deal. The allegations against the other person might be false.

Regardless of why someone is falsely accused, the result could be devastating. Hiring a criminal defense lawyer is the best way to fight false allegations. 

Errors and Mistakes During the Investigation

A person might be wrongly accused of a crime if the police officers and investigators make mistakes and errors during the investigation. In some cases, police officers might intentionally ignore the law to make an arrest. In those cases, a person needs to fight the criminal charges aggressively to avoid a conviction.

How Can a Criminal Defense Attorney Help Me?

Your lawyer shields you from intimidation tactics. It is frightening to be arrested and face criminal charges, especially when you know that you have done nothing wrong. 

Law enforcement officers and prosecutors may harass and threaten you to get a confession. Without a criminal defense lawyer, you might be tempted to accept a plea deal to avoid going to jail. 

However, pleading guilty creates a criminal record, even though you might not go to jail. A criminal record follows you for the rest of your life. You could have trouble obtaining a job, renting a place to live, or qualifying for government programs when you have a criminal record.

Your criminal defense lawyer communicates with the prosecution to determine what evidence the state has to prove your guilt. If criminal charges have not been filed, an attorney could potentially stop the criminal charges from being filed if the attorney can provide evidence of your innocence. 

If the prosecutor proceeds with criminal charges, your lawyer aggressively investigates the charges against you. Your lawyer gathers evidence to refute the charges. Additionally, your attorney determines if your legal rights were violated.

Should I Explain My Side of the Story to the Police?

It is generally never a wise idea to talk to the police without an attorney. Even though you are innocent, talking to the police never works as a person intends. Police officers already believe you are guilty, so they are only interested in obtaining more evidence against you.

If you are arrested or taken into custody, it is best to remain silent. Do not answer any questions beyond confirming your name and address. Immediately say that you invoke your right to counsel and ask to talk with a lawyer.

The police officers might continue to ask you questions or talk to you. You are not required to answer questions or say anything further after you ask for an attorney. Wait for an attorney and then tell your attorney your side of the story.