Yesterday, AMC launched a spin-off of the show “Breaking Bad”
which is about a criminal defense attorney and it is entitled “Better
Call Saul.” Like most television shows, the program is designed
to be entertaining, but not necessarily insightful. However, yesterday’s
episode raised a great question: when do I need to hire a lawyer?
Sometimes the answer to this question is easy. Other times it can seem
more complicated. Obviously someone who is seriously injured in an accident
should contact an attorney immediately. The purpose of the attorney contact
is not just to ensure that the injured person is treated fairly by insurance
companies and the person who caused the injury, but also so that the injured
person can learn about his or her rights and options.
At Berry Law Firm, while we take great pride in advocating for our clients,
we also take the time to educate them so they can make informed decisions
as to whether to settle a case or whether to take it to trial.
While criminal cases are different than injury cases, the concept of educating
the client is important in achieving the optimal result. In “Better
Call Saul”, the attorney was asked by a person being investigated
for a financial crime whether he would look guilty if he hired a lawyer
even though no charges had been filed. The lawyer responded, “People
that hire lawyers don’t look guilty, people who get arrested look
While hiring a lawyer may or may not make a difference in the government’s
decision to arrest, it certainly can make a difference in the outcome
of the case.
Most criminal defendants do not have the luxury of hiring an attorney prior
to arrest. I’m not referring to the financial ability to hire an
attorney, but the lack of awareness of the pending investigation common
in fraud cases, federal drug conspiracy cases, and child pornography cases.
In these cases the defendant may not know he is the target of an investigation
until he has been placed under arrest.
Some people that are aware that they are being investigated or are concerned
they may have committed a crime, see hiring an attorney like paying for
insurance. While we certainly do not like paying for medical insurance,
homeowners insurance, auto insurance, and so forth, we sleep better at
night knowing that that insurance we have will provide for us in the case
of a catastrophe. While hiring an attorney may not prevent that legal
catastrophe from coming, in some instances it gives the accused peace
of mind that an attorney is providing advice as to what actions to take
or not to take to get the best possible outcome. In the unfortunate event
there is an arrest, there can be peace of mind in knowing that the attorney
services have already been retained.
I have heard many commercials over the years from funeral homes about how
stressful planning a funeral can be for a family. I have observed similar
situations when a family is scrambling to find an attorney for a loved
one who has recently been arrested. This can be a very difficult time
for a family member who simply wants to get a son, daughter, husband,
or significant other out of jail, but knows very little about the circumstances
surrounding the case or the charges. In these instances, the family member
is usually trying to contact law enforcement to find out what happened
and is eventually directed to the county attorney’s office. Eventually
the family learns that a loved one will be in jail until a large amount
of money is posted as bond or bail. The family member has no idea about
the bond process or the criminal justice process, he simply wants the
loved one to come home.
Individuals who retain attorneys prior to the arrest generally have the
opportunity to work with their attorney to plan for posting bond, getting
out of jail, preparing a defense, and all the events in the timeline associated
with a criminal case.
While it is certainly true that some people contact an attorney before
they need one, most do not. It is usually not until an injured person
feels that he has been mistreated by his insurance company or the person
who injured him before an attorney is contacted. Similarly the person
accused of a crime often remains in denial that something may happen or
simply hopes for the best. While doing nothing is certainly a course of
action, it is not a strategy. When you are facing a life changing event
whether it be due to an injury or criminal charges, it is always best
to have a plan. We can’t know what is going to happen in the future,
but by having an attorney that is knowledgeable of our situation, we can
at least take action to prepare based on the advice of someone who knows
what could happen.