A person who was at the scene of a crime or is suspected of committing a crime may be the subject of a pre-file investigation. These investigations can involve basic conversations with police or more thorough aspects depending on the nature of the case, but many pre-file investigations center on suspected white collar crime, sex crimes, violent crimes, or drug offenses.
If you believe that you are the target of any investigation, it is in your best interest to hire a criminal defense lawyer before being charged. Doing so may help you not only avoid the anguish and humiliation of being arrested, but can also help you avoid court hearings, penalties, fines and thousands of dollars in legal fees.
West Chester Investigation Process Lawyer
If you think you are the target of a pre-file investigation, you can hire Ciccarelli Law Offices on a reasonable hourly retainer that could help you avoid ever being charged. Our criminal defense attorneys represent clients throughout Chester County as well as surrounding areas including the greater Philadelphia area.
Our firm may be able to settle your case with the alleged victim, convince police not to refer your case to prosecutors, or negotiate with the prosecutor before charges are filed. It is important for you take action as soon as possible, and we can review your case when you call (610) 719-3200 to schedule a free, confidential consultation.
Pennsylvania Investigation Process Overview
- What happens during pre-file investigations?
- Are there risks to not having an attorney during a pre-file investigation?
- What are the benefits of hiring a lawyer before charges are actually filed?
- How is a pre-file investigation different from a grand jury investigation?
During a pre-file investigation, detectives may do any of the following activities, depending on the nature of the alleged crime:
- Attempt to get suspects to agree to polygraph (“lie detector”) tests
- Consult ballistics experts
- Explore phone records
- Gather extralegal information about suspect, including ties to community, financial status, military record, physical and mental health, or substance abuse, employment, education, and marital history
- Interview witnesses
- Review suspect’s juvenile and adult criminal records
- Test fingerprints or DNA samples at scene of crime
Failure to consult a West Chester criminal defense lawyer can make a profound difference on the nature of the charges you ultimately face or whether you are even charged in the first place. Without any legal help, people who are under pre-file investigation may make any one of a number of mistakes that result in charges being filed when authorities might not have otherwise had sufficient evidence.
Some errors that suspects make during pre-file investigations include, but are not limited to:
- Making statements to detectives or law enforcement — Detectives will be seeking to gather as many incriminating statements as possible, and suspects have no way of knowing what information detectives have already gathered from victims or other witnesses. The risk of not knowing the accuracy of statements detectives have already gathered from other parties is especially dangerous in cases involving sex crimes or domestic violence. It is critical to have legal representation when making any statements to police detectives.
- Agreeing to polygraph (lie detector) tests — People who did not commit a crime are tempted to believe that they have nothing to hide. However, a favorable result will not exonerate you and refusing to submit to a polygraph test does not prove your guilt. Remember, you are innocent until proven guilty. You are not required to prove your innocence. The prosecutors has to prove your supposed guilt.
- Believing that Affidavit of Non-Prosecution means charges will not be filed — Sometimes an accuser may sign a sworn statement that expresses their desire to halt any criminal prosecution. A detective may disingenuously tell you that they will “go easy” on you or drop your case in exchange for your cooperation because of such an affidavit. However, the District Attorney’s Office is not obligated to dismiss a case simply because of an Affidavit of Non-Prosecution, as these sworn statements may have been signed by an otherwise uncooperative accuser.
- Confessing despite lack of evidence — It is important to remember that detectives do not and will not tell suspects that they have weak cases. People who are being investigated can be understandably reactionary and admit to a crime—even if that crime was inadvertent, such as leaving the scene of an accident—that authorities would have otherwise been unable to prosecute.
- Accidentally admitting to a different crime — Again, not knowing what detectives have in their files can result in suspects making statements that get them charged with crimes that are separate from the ones originally being investigated. While thinking that you are making a statement that clears you of wrongdoing in the central criminal matter, you may be confessing to an activity that the detective can use existing evidence to charge with you a different crime.
By hiring legal representation as soon you as you learn you are under investigation, you can give yourself a greatly increased likelihood of a favorable outcome. A West Chester pre-investigation lawyer may be able to:
- Keep you constantly updated about your legal rights and answer your questions about the case
- Prevent charges from being filed
- Divert the allegations against you into an informal resolution
- Get charges reduced
- Avoid a public arrest by assisting with surrender if charged
The Pennsylvania Attorney General or any one of the 67 district attorneys have the ability to convene a grand jury to investigate a criminal case. Unlike the “petit jury” of 12 citizens who sit at a trial and decide a defendant’s guilt or innocence, a grand jury brings together 23 citizens to investigate suspected criminal activity.
Grand juries have the authority to investigate any additional criminal wrongdoing that they learn about during their original investigation. For this reason, it is especially important to have legal representation if you are subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury. Refusing to appear or testify after being served a grand jury subpoena can result in being held in contempt and sentenced to jail time.
In a Pennsylvania grand jury investigation, witnesses are allowed to bring a lawyer into the grand jury room. However, the lawyers are not allowed to address the grand jury or object to any of the questions asked. Instead, they can only consult with witnesses and offer advice.
If you are subpoenaed to appear before a federal grand jury, you do not have the right to have a lawyer present with you when you testify. In these cases, you will want to consult a criminal defense attorney before your appearance so you can avoid incriminating yourself.
Find the Best Investigation Process Lawyer in West Chester
Ciccarelli Law Offices provides through and aggressive pre-file investigation representation for clients all over Chester County. Our firm also serves residents in nearby areas such as Lancaster County, Montgomery County, and Delaware County.
Do not wait for charges to be filed before you reach out for legal assistance. Investing a little bit now may save you a lot more money later. We offer a free consultation to discuss your case when you call (610) 719-3200 today.