Why Witnesses Need Criminal Lawyers, Too
The idea that you might need to hire a criminal law services firm to represent your interests if you're just a witness can come as a shock. Even in cases where witnesses believe they're doing their duty as citizens to help the police, it's still wise to retain counsel. Let's look at four reasons why that is the case.
Obstruction of Justice
Witnesses are frequently close to the people who are subjects of investigations. It's easy for a well-meaning family member, for example, to toss out something that ends up being material evidence. Those actions may be interpreted by the police as obstructing their work and that may lead to charges. Once you know you're likely to be a witness in a case, such as after the first time the cops ask if they can talk with you, you should invoke your right to have an attorney present.
If a criminal case ends up before a judge, there's a chance that a witness will be asked to provide testimony in court. That means you'll be put under oath. If you lie to the court or even are seen as not telling the whole truth, there is a real risk that you may be charged with perjury. It's best to have your own counsel present throughout the whole process to ensure that you've been properly coached on how to respond to questions and to raise objections.
Avoiding Criminal Exposure
Being close enough to an alleged crime to be a witness may also mean having some exposure. Suppose a drug buyer was present during a deal gone bad. The buyer was potentially committing a crime at the time they witnessed the events and they might be charged. An attorney can help you decide how to confront such sticky situations.
Focusing on Protecting Your Rights
Don't assume that the prosecution, the police of the defense are in any position to protect your rights. The American system of criminal law is designed to be adversarial, and that means prosecutors and defense attorneys must zealously handle their cases on behalf of those they represent. For the prosecution, that means representing the government. For the defense, that means looking out for their client's interests. You'll note who isn't included in those lists: you. If the circumstances require you to cooperate as a witness with an attorney who represents the government or someone else, an agreement can be arranged to enable that.
For more information, contact a criminal law service like Johnson Motinger Greenwood Law Firm.