If you've been charged with a criminal offence, it's important that you prepare yourself adequately for the legal process ahead. Criminal charges are grave and often hold the prospect of jail time or having a criminal record, fines and legal restrictions included. Whether you're looking at charges touching on white collar crime, traffic offences, sexual offences, assault or other crimes, your immediate response should be as detailed below.
Contact a criminal lawyer
Time is of the essence in a criminal case. By the time the prosecution is making an arrest, they already have a plan to charge you with a crime. You should therefore seek legal representation immediately so that you start preparing your defence. If you're in jail, have someone contact a criminal lawyer on your behalf.
When seeking legal representation on a criminal case, ensure your lawyer is experienced in the type of offense you're being charged with. If you can find a lawyer that specialises in that field (such as fraud or negligent driving), that's even better as they are likely to have a lot more experience. If you cannot afford a lawyer, the state will provide you with one.
Explain your case
Once you have appointed a criminal lawyer to prepare your defence, they will arrange a de-briefing session. This is often done immediately, whether you're in custody or not. During this time, explain to your lawyer what you're being charged with and how you plan to plead.
It's also very important that you furnish them with information that could help them build a stronger case. This includes details such as any witnesses or alibis you may have. Your lawyer will then consult the police and prosecution to better understand why you're being charged.
Create a defence strategy
Once your criminal lawyer has understood the scope of the case, find out what the defence plan is. Each case is different so the approach your lawyer will take will depend on the charges and the circumstances around them. In some cases, your lawyer will seek to liaise with the prosecution, provide relevant evidence and seek to stop the case from going to trial.
In general cases, your lawyer will seek to interview witnesses, seek professional testimonies and to discredit the prosecution's case. At this point in the preparation stage, seek to find out how strong or dire your case is. It's always best to understand the depth of the matter from the start. Also ask your lawyer to explain how the case will proceed and what events you can expect ahead e.g. mentioning of the case, hearings etc.
From here on, your criminal defence lawyer will take point on the matter, explaining to you how the case is unfolding and seeking any additional clarification from you when needed.