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  • Writer's pictureDavid A. Cmelik Law PLC

Should I hire a criminal-only lawyer? Cedar Rapids Criminal Lawyer answers

Handcuffs, a Sheriff’s badge, or an indictment, where the plaintiff is the State of Iowa versus you with the prosecutor as opposing counsel, are all signs that it may be time to hire a criminal lawyer. However, there may be times when it is confusing whether it is your responsibility to hire a criminal defense attorney. All we do is represent people charged with crimes, usually following an arrest.

If you are a crime victim, you don’t generally have to hire a criminal lawyer to represent your interest as the State of Iowa represents the interests of all taxpayers and citizens and sometimes seeks reimbursement for damages resulting from crimes— called restitution. Regardless of a crime victim's remedies, we do not represent crime victims. Crime victims have specific rights under state law. Police typically assist crime victims and prosecutors’ offices have special “victim witness coordinators” who can explain victim rights. You should call the police or the prosecutor instead if you are a crime victim.

You also should not call our office if you are not under arrest or being prosecuted, but you believe you have suffered financial damages or compensable personal injury by a municipal police or county sheriffs office in the past. In other words, if you want to sue someone or some agency, you need a personal injury lawyer or civil litigator. Not us. Criminal defense lawyers do not sue people—or even law enforcement agencies—for money damages. It's not what we do. We defend criminal lawsuits, called indictments.

We also typically only handle pending, or, ongoing, criminal prosecutions. A state law criminal prosecution and direct criminal appeal are generally considered over and done if more than 30 days have already passed since sentencing and no appeal has been filed. We do not reexamine finished cases that are already over and past that sentencing and appeal deadline. Others may do that but we do not.

Well, here’s a tougher question: should I hire a criminal defense attorney before I voluntarily walk into the police station for a police interrogation but before I am formally charged or arrested? I haven’t been arrested or indicted but an officer flashed a badge and said they need me to come down and clear up some things.

Many interrogation targets mistakenly believe they will be protected if they have a lawyer sitting next to them while they make admissions during an interrogation. So should you agree to be interrogated with an attorney present? The correct legal answer to that question is to rephrase it: should I immediately end the interrogation by invoking the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney simultaneously? The answer to the latter question is yes, you should end the interrogation before it begins. And here's an important bit-- invoke both rights. Otherwise, Officer Friendly will toss you a phone book and make you page through it awkwardly. Don't play that game. Just invoke the right to silence and make it clear you do not wish to be interrogated under any circumstances. Officers will confuse interrogation targets by telling them they are "not under arrest" so as to avoid the Miranda warning and put the target at ease. Your right to silence follows you around like a shadow 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is not dependent on arrest status. Invoke the right to silence even when interrogated out of custody.

Nevertheless, most investigative targets are eager to learn what the police believe about them. Moreover, law abiding citizens want to "prove" their innocence and perceive from the assumption that explaining everything will resolve any false allegations by police. All of that is pointless.

Because professional interrogators can legally lie to their targets, you won’t learn anything of value from the police by allowing yourself to be interrogated. Moreover, you won’t be able to talk them out of their theory of the case if they already believe you are guilty. It’s best not to need a lawyer at all during an interrogation by not having an interrogation. What if they don't end the interrogation? Broken record time: I invoke the right to an attorney and the right to remain silent. So, I'm supposed to ask for a lawyer *and* invoke my right to silence even though I know they cannot provide a lawyer in real time? Yes. It will end the interrogation and that is its only purpose.

But should I hire a criminal defense lawyer who practices only in this area if I am arrested or indicted? We think so. All we do is criminal law here, of which DUI— called Operating While Intoxicated, or, OWI, in the State of Iowa—is a significant subset.

Because the firm principal has over 19 years experience handling over 4,250 criminal cases, from simple misdemeanor assault to double homicide, we believe we are uniquely equipped to handle the Iowa criminal case with which you or a loved one have been charged.

If you’re searching for a good criminal defense attorney—for your DUI or other Iowa criminal case—to explore your best options, we want to be on your list. Contact us for a free initial consultation.


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