Here in Southern California, if you believe that you are suspected of a crime, if you’re the target of a criminal investigation, or if you’ve been arrested and charged with a crime, take your case to a Long Beach drug crimes lawyer as quickly as you can.

You’re about to read a brief discussion of criminal investigations and how attorneys sometimes intervene in those investigations on a client’s behalf. It’s important to know how an attorney can help you because anyone could be wrongly accused of a crime and need an attorney’s help.

Different types of crimes are handled differently by law enforcement investigators. A violent criminal suspect who is deemed a threat to the public will be arrested as quickly as possible, but police investigations into white-collar crimes and other non-violent crimes can be quite lengthy.

HOW LONG CAN A CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION TAKE?

Because white-collar and other non-violent suspects presumably pose no risk to the public safety, the police may take their time interviewing witnesses and developing evidence – so that their final case against the suspect is persuasive. That can often take weeks or months.

During those weeks or months, personal and direct intervention by a criminal defense attorney can sometimes pressure the police to expedite and conclude their investigation.

In certain cases, a criminal defense lawyer may be able to “get ahead” of an investigation and present evidence that will keep any criminal charges from being filed. In other cases, a defense lawyer may be able to arrange for an acceptable plea bargain in advance of a client’s arrest.

IF YOU ARE BEING INVESTIGATED, WHERE CAN YOU TURN?

What should you do if you learn that you are the target of a criminal investigation by a local, state, or federal law enforcement agency?

Especially if you are being investigated for a “white-collar” crime, it’s critical to have a defense attorney’s help as early as possible, because convictions for white-collar crimes are frequently punished with steep fines and years in prison.

Although white-collar criminals are seldom violent, the most serious white-collar crimes are in their own way utterly devastating, sometimes wiping out the savings and retirement funds – representing a lifetime of work – of thousands of families.

HOW CAN A DEFENSE ATTORNEY HELP?

If you are under investigation for a white-collar crime – or any crime – in Southern California, or if you believe that you are being investigated, an experienced criminal defense attorney will save you money, time, and possibly a great deal of aggravation or grief.

If you are arrested, or if you believe that you may be arrested, retaining an attorney right away is imperative. Any delay in retaining an attorney’s help puts you at a distinct disadvantage.

A defense lawyer’s early intervention in a criminal investigation may include interviewing witnesses, talking to the investigating police officers, and discussing the case and the potential charges with the prosecutor.

Your attorney may even be able to present the prosecutor with facts and evidence that were overlooked by the police. In some cases – although it is rare – a defense lawyer may be able to persuade a prosecutor to drop a case entirely.

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER AN ARREST – BUT BEFORE A CHARGE IS FILED?

After a criminal suspect has been formally taken into custody, that suspect is not actually charged with a crime until a prosecutor has filed the charge with the court.

And before filing a charge, a prosecutor will review the evidence and police reports to determine if in fact there is enough evidence against a suspect to justify filing a criminal charge.

During this brief window of opportunity, and before a charge is filed, your attorney may be able to influence a prosecutor’s choice to file or not file a charge against you. It is vital to contact a defense lawyer as soon as you can after an arrest – if your attorney is not already on the case.

HOW ARE POLICE INVESTIGATIONS CONDUCTED? HOW IS A CHARGE FILED?

Exactly how is a crime investigated and a criminal charge filed? Here’s a brief summary of the process, which may proceed in one of two different ways:

In the “pre-filing” stage of an investigation, the police investigate a crime without making an arrest. During this stage, the police may not have – and will be seeking – sufficient evidence that a particular suspect has committed a particular crime.

When the police feel that they have sufficient evidence against a suspect, they will meet with and present that evidence to the prosecutor, but only the prosecutor may file a criminal charge.

If the prosecutor agrees that the evidence against the suspect is persuasive, he or she will file one or more formal criminal charges with the court.

Depending on the nature of the crime and the charge, a warrant will be issued for the suspect’s arrest, or in less serious cases, the suspect may simply be informed of the charge by mail and given a date to appear in court.

WHAT ABOUT “ON-THE-SPOT” ARRESTS?

In some cases, of course, there is no pre-trial investigation.

If a police officer witnesses you perpetrating a crime, you will probably be arrested “on-the-spot,” and your attorney will have little time to stop a charge from being filed.

But in either scenario, if a prosecutor decides that the evidence against a suspect is insufficient for a conviction, the prosecutor will either:

1. reject the case and not file a charge
2. return the case to the police for additional investigation

If the case is returned to the police, a charge eventually must be dropped or must be filed before the applicable deadline set by the state’s statute of limitations.

HOW LONG DOES THE STATE HAVE TO FILE A CRIMINAL CHARGE?

The statute of limitations is the time limit, set by law, that the state has to file a charge against a criminal suspect, beginning from the date the crime allegedly occurred. California’s statutes of limitations are:

1. one year for misdemeanor charges
2. three years for most felony charges
3. longer for certain violent felony charges

No statute of limitations is established by the state of California for any offense which is punishable by death or by life in prison, such as murder. The embezzlement of public funds also has no statute of limitations in California.

WHAT’S THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO KNOW ABOUT YOUR RIGHTS?

If you are the target of a criminal investigation by any law enforcement agency in Southern California, the most important thing to remember is that your constitutional right to an attorney is a right that you have right now, at this moment.

Your right to an attorney does not suddenly “kick in” when an arrest is made or when a charge is filed.

If you are under investigation or if you have a reason to believe that you may be under investigation by the police, speak now to a qualified criminal defense attorney.

If your future is at risk, make the call right away. That is your right.