Pre-filing is definitely an important stage of the proceedings. Not everybody has the opportunity to deal with the case at the pre-filing level. A lot of times crimes happen, people are arrested and there is no pre-filing. But other times, crimes need to be investigated. Sometimes not is all that meets the eye and the police get a case and they need to do some investigation. This is called the pre-filing phase. You may get a phone call from a law enforcement agency or a letter from the police, basically asking you to come talk to them, or they may just come and try to talk to you face-to- face.
It's never a good idea to talk to the police, especially if they're investigating you for a crime. You want to get your criminal defense attorney in on the action right from the beginning. There's a lot of things that can be done at the pre-filing phase, but the one thing you don't want to do is help the police or prosecutors prove the case against you. It's important to understand how criminal cases work in California.
I can't tell you how many times people decide to talk to the police and that ends up being the last lynch-pin they need to file a case against you, and it's the toughest evidence to get around when somebody makes some incriminating statements to the police. So, don't do it.
When I deal with a pre-filing intervention, first I'm going to talk to the client and see what they have to say about the issue. Then, I'm going to call the police and basically ask them, what's going on with this case? Listen and take notes. After that I'll tell them, okay let me talk to my client about it and I'll get back to you.
Then we can really get down to the nitty-gritty now that I hopefully have the information I need to give you an idea of what you're looking at, combined with what you tell me and what the police tell me.
Sometimes the prosecutors are even involved at the pre-trial phase of a criminal case and I can get some information from them. Then, once we talk about, we decide kind of what our plan is going to be. Obviously, the objective usually is to avoid a criminal filing at the pre-filing phase or at least minimize the potential damages that can come from a criminal filing – you being arrested at work, at home, having to post bail, and all the other things that come along with the prospect of getting a criminal case filed against you.
The key though at the pre-filing phase you have the opportunity to do damage control. You also have the opportunity in the right case to give your side of the story through your attorney. Not through you.
Your attorney can talk to the police of the prosecutors and not make any incriminating statements, but instead, listen to what they say. Respond to what they say and it can't be used against you if it's done the right way.
So, a lot of people ask me should they hire an attorney at the pre-filing phase and the answer is of course, absolutely. You can't just bury your head in the sand and hope for the best when it comes to the prospects of a criminal investigation.
You've got to defend yourself right from the beginning. You've got to do it in the right way. You've got to do it in a smart way and you have to make sure that your rights, your freedom, your record are all protected so it doesn't have an impact on your life, your future, your job, your family.
Early Intervention is Crucial To The Outcome
So, pre-filing is crucial in a criminal case in Los Angeles, and the right way to handle it is to get an attorney. Give them all the information. Don't leave anything out. Don't put a spin on things. What I always like is the punch line, I want to know what they are trying to claim that you did and then we can move forward and try to figure out what we're going to do to prevent it.
So, set up a meeting. We'll go over everything under the umbrella of the attorney/client privilege so you can talk freely even if you don't hire me, anything that is said is protected by the attorney/client privilege, but at least you can get all the information out and start to take the first steps towards taking control of your criminal matter, and that's the biggest thing at the pre-filing, starting to get the case moving in the right direction.
Just putting our head in the sand and hoping for the best is usually not a good approach because whatever is happening is typically not good for you. Somebody is saying something bad about you. Somebody is giving some information about you and you need to respond back and the pre-filing phase is the opportunity to do that.
Sometimes I, as a criminal defense attorney in Los Angeles at the pre-filing phase, can plant seeds that will later grow to help you either defend the case or minimize the damage that can come from a criminal case.
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