Posted on: 30 November 2020
For many people acting as witnesses in criminal cases, it can come as a shock to learn they may want to hire lawyers. You might wonder how it's possible as a witness that you'd need a criminal defense attorney but here are some reasons why.
It's easy to think that the only people who need any sort of criminal defense are those who've committed crimes. However, criminal exposure doesn't mean you had to have committed an offense. Instead, it means you were close enough to an alleged crime that you should be concerned that charges could come back on you somehow.
Maybe You're Not Really a Witness
Police investigations don't always start with a solid sense of who the defendant is. Likewise, the police can sometimes frame their investigative conversations with subjects by asking them to be witnesses. Either way, it's wise to have a criminal defense lawyer present any time you talk with a police officer or prosecutor. This is a good way to keep the conversation on track. If there is anything you are unsure about with the questioning, an attorney can step in to help.
Defendants Sometimes Accuse Witnesses
When someone stands accused of an offense, sometimes the simplest solution may be to push the blame onto somebody else. A defendant might directly accuse a witness of committing the crime under investigation. Further, a defendant might offer to cooperate with a police investigation and start providing information about other people. Even if those people are innocent, the police may bring them in for questioning.
American law recognizes a concept known as a process crime. This is a crime against the justice system, and you don't have to have committed the original offense for the police to accuse you of one.
Process crime law covers things like lying to the police or a federal agency, discarding evidence, or covering up offenses. You might not have realized your actions could be seen this way at the time, but a prosecutor may decide you did something wrong or are holding back testimony.
Additionally, prosecutors can sometimes use allegations of process crimes to try to push witnesses. A district attorney might, for example, accuse you of obstruction of justice. Of course, if your story lined up with the prosecution's view of what happened, they might offer to drop the charges. While this may seem sketchy, you need to have a criminal defense attorney there to point it out if it happens. Contact a criminal defense lawyer for more information.Share