Top ten mistakes people make when being investigated, arrested, or charged with an offence
1. Making decisions without the guidance and advice of counsel.
This list, and our website, can assist with general legal information and get you started. What you really need is the expert advice specific to your situation. Every criminal law case we deal with at Mulligan Tam Pearson is different, with different facts, police, witnesses and clients. Our years of experience allow us to carefully analyze your needs, then come up with strategies and tactics to maximize your defence. We are criminal defence lawyers in Victoria, BC, but handle cases in other parts of the province and country.
2. Speaking to police without the benefit of all the facts.
We do not have secret trials in Canada. As a person being investigated and prosecuted by the government, you are entitled to full disclosure of the evidence that will be used against you. Information is the most important currency in a criminal investigation or prosecution. If you speak to the police prior to being given access to the details of their investigation, you may say something that is later viewed as dishonest or incorrect. It is almost always better to exercise your right to remain silent. Your silence cannot be used against you as evidence; what you say can. The criminal lawyers at Mulligan Tam Pearson often deal with clients who have said something to the police in anticipation of what they thought they were facing, when in fact their situation was fundamentally different.
3. Speaking about allegations or charges to others.
The mere fact of having a criminal allegation leveled against you can bring many of the prejudices and challenges of having a criminal record. Unfortunately, the public is quick to judge those who face allegations and, if not kept discreet, you may be answering questions about a criminal accusation for years to come, even if you are found not guilty at trial.
Moreover, the statements to other people can be used as evidence against you, even if they are people close to you, or in your family. It is best to avoid risking that they be put in the difficult position of being called as a witness against you.
4. Ask the police what to do.
In Canada, we have what is called an adversarial system of prosecution. This means there are two sides to a case: you and your lawyer on one side against the state, represented by the police and Crown prosecutors, on the other. The police may not be neutral. Their job is to collect as much evidence as possible to help get you convicted. They cannot give you advice to help your situation. Once you are a suspect, the police have a job to do, and it is not to assist you. It is to collect evidence against you. Unfortunately, the law in Canada allows the police to lie to you to further their investigation, so do not ask the police what you should do or rely on their advice.
5. Destroying evidence.
Sometimes clients come to us having destroyed or thrown out evidence that would be very useful in their defence. We use photographs, text message records, and other evidence in your criminal case whenever we can. At Mulligan Tam Pearson, we have unique experience and training in the use of computer forensics to pull deleted and other data from computers and other electronic devices if this will assist you. However, we cannot recreate the ripped shirt you have thrown out, or the voice mail you have deleted. As a criminal accused, you do not have any responsibility to share information with the state, but only with the careful advice of our lawyers can you decide what is helpful or unhelpful.
6. Posting comments online.
Police now regularly use Facebook and other online information sites to investigate suspects. Comments you make about a criminal investigation not only attract attention to the fact that you are being investigated, but can be used as evidence against you later. Once a posting has been made, even if you delete it, the authorities may obtain the deleted information from the website owner, or anyone who saw it, and use it against you.
7. Bringing a cell phone with you to the police station during an investigation.
It is now common for police to perform detailed computer forensic examinations of cell phones as part of many types of investigations. One of the easiest ways for police to get a hold of your cell phone is to arrest you as you attend at a police station and may search the cell phone, looking through your call logs, photos, text messages and emails. If the police do have your cell phone, the defence lawyers at Mulligan Tam Pearson have specialized training in computer forensics and can assist in cases where cell phone evidence is being used against you.
8. Consenting to any form of search without prior legal advice.
On the rare occasion you would be wise to consent to a search of your home, vehicle, or computer, it should be a decision made only after careful consultation with a criminal lawyer, who can properly weigh the costs and benefits of such a search. Consenting to the search effectively gives up one of the critical procedural defenses that we often apply to our cases.
9. Failing to carefully understand and follow bail conditions.
Being arrested is one of the most stressful and confusing experiences a person can go through. Quite understandably, our clients often come to us having not carefully read every single word of the bail documents that the police gave them. Unfortunately, this can lead to an additional criminal allegation of breach of your bail conditions if you, for instance, send a text message or email to a person with whom you are not to have contact, even if it is in response to a message from them. Our lawyers can carefully review your conditions of release and explain them to you in plain language. We can also apply to change police bail conditions that are unreasonable.
10. Putting your head in the sand.
If you have been charged with a criminal offence, you must deal with the situation promptly, and with your full attention. This is not a problem that is going to go away on its own. The fear, confusion, and shame attached to a criminal charge sometimes paralyze people into inaction. Any delay along the way can affect the outcome of a case. If we can make an early submission to avoid a criminal charge or have a police investigation ended, we will. Sometimes people contact us too late for us to do so. Clients often remark to us that they feel much better after an initial meeting, as the information they receive allows them to process and emotionally deal with their situation.