Many folks are surprised to learn that it's a good idea for a witness in a criminal case to hire a lawyer. After all, why would someone who's telling what happened need to have a criminal defense law attorney present? Here are 5 reasons it's prudent to ask for counsel if you're a witness.
It is best to think of the criminal justice system as a big and dumb machine that seeks ways to charge people with crimes. A person providing statements or testimony may accidentally admit to wrongdoing. This is especially true if the person is close to the defendant. It is not uncommon for a friend of a person accused of drug dealing to have potentially partaken of a few illicit substances, for example. That witness would need to be careful in the course of their testimony to avoid saying anything that might seem incriminating.
When the cops ask someone to be a witness, they have a pretty good idea of what they want that individual to say. Unfortunately, the police or a prosecutor might not be thrilled if your version of events doesn't line up with theirs. Worse, some prosecutors are willing to pressure witnesses by threatening them with obstruction of justice charges.
It can be challenging to tell the truth as you know it while also cooperating with the state. Consequently, it's a good idea to have a criminal defense attorney present whenever you talk to the cops, a prosecutor, or the court.
The Police Lie
American law allows lots of room for the police to lie to defendants and witnesses. Until a matter goes to court, the cops can lie to see if a person's claims are consistent. Even if the police are just messing with you to check the veracity of your statements, there's a risk they might interpret even a small difference in two statements as evidence of a crime. Have a criminal defense law attorney present to guard against this scenario.
Just because the cops say you're a witness today doesn't mean it will stay that way. As their investigation progresses, they might decide that something points to a witness. It is better to lawyer up before that happens than to wait for circumstances to change.
Finally, there is the risk that a court might accuse you of perjury. If you give testimony in court, you swear to tell the truth. A judge might decide something was a lie and hit you with a perjury charge. An attorney can tell you how to answer questions to reduce your perjury risk.
If you have any questions, reach out to a criminal defense attorney.Share