What You Should Know About the Criminal Trial Process
The Initial Investigation
Attorney Sargent's practice is to take an aggressive posture as soon as an individual believes that he or she is a suspect in criminal activity. Unless special circumstances exist, you should exercise your right to remain silent when contacted by law enforcement officials.
It is natural to believe that you can convince someone of your innocence or talk yourself out of the situation. In most cases, however, speaking directly with law enforcement officials will significantly impair your ability to present the best possible defense. Often when you speak to the police you make things worse and everything you say is later used against you and often unfairly distorted to imply your guilt.
In short, do not speak to anyone about criminal allegations for which you could be a target. Do not speak to law enforcement authorities without your lawyer present.
Once you tell the police that you will not speak to them without your attorney present, they must stop questioning you and allow you to consult with an attorney.
If you are arrested, please remember that you have the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. These rights can easily be thrown away if you are not careful and do not understand the criminal investigation process.
You must understand that everything you say WILL be used against you. Investigators often say that suspects will receive better or special treatment if they will cooperate and speak freely. You need to understand that the police are trained to say this. The police officers/investigators have no legal authority to make agreements that bind the State, so they cannot make things better for you after charges are filed. Once charges are filed a prosecutor handles the case, so the police officer/detective has no authority to do anything except report what he has learned from his investigation and/or his conversation with the suspect. An investigator may also suggest that an innocent person has nothing to hide and therefore does not need a lawyer. These are common investigative techniques used to press an individual for information and cooperation.
Resist these police tactics. Remain silent. Politely tell the police that you can not speak to them without your attorney present. Then ask them to allow you to call your attorney. Then say nothing to the police. I strongly advise you not to speak with law enforcement officers without the presence of a lawyer. Criminal Defense Lawyers cringe when they hear statements that their clients allegedly made to the police during interrogation. These hurtful statements are referred to as CONFESSIONS and can lead to convictions and further criminal charges. Do not do this to yourself.
The Grand Jury
The grand jury hears evidence presented by the district attorney's office and then decides whether to issue an indictment. The grand jury is an independent body, whose functions include not only the investigation of crime and the initiation of criminal prosecution but also the protection of the citizenry from unfounded criminal charges.
While grand juries are sometimes described as performing accusatory and investigatory functions, the grand jury's principal function is to determine whether or not there is probable cause to believe that one or more persons committed a certain offense within the venue of the court. Thus, it has been said that a grand jury has but two functions - to indict or, in the alternative, to return a "no-bill."
The grand jury has broad powers to subpoena witnesses regarding criminal allegations. In fact, once subpoenaed by the grand jury, an individual cannot refuse to appear. This power to subpoena witnesses also applies to the suspects of the grand jury's investigation. While a suspect cannot refuse to appear before the grand jury, they may, however, refuse to answer specific questions if the response to that question could tend to incriminate them.
A witness or suspect called before the grand jury has no right to have their attorney present during the proceedings. Therefore, Attorney Sargent insists on thoroughly preparing his clients prior to their appearance before the grand jury.
Remember, you may refuse to answer any question if a truthful answer to the question would incriminate you. Anything that you do say may be used against you by the grand jury and in a subsequent legal proceeding.
Attorney Sargent strongly believes that extensive trial preparation is the key to conducting a successful trial. Once retained to represent a client, Attorney Sargent fully investigates the facts surrounding the case and all relevant legal issues that could be raised at trial. Each case is different and will require a defense carefully constructed to the specific facts and concerns of the case. Preparation is the key to success!