All criminal defense lawyers handle cases in court from time to time. However, Paul Kish is an Atlanta-based criminal defense lawyer who for over 36 years has also represented clients during criminal investigations. Many times, the attorney can do the most good for his or her client by becoming involved at the early stage when investigators and prosecutors are merely looking into whether they should, or should not, bring charges against a person or company. There are many things to consider when deciding if a person or company should hire competent counsel early in an investigation.
Many people and entities feel, quite correctly, that if they did not do anything wrong they do not need to hire an attorney. Just go in and tell the truth, some lawyers tell their longtime business clients. Often, this is fine. However, it is the times when this strategy does not work well that leads to second-guessing and sometimes even a later prosecution or prison sentence. Prosecutors and investigators often know far more that we think they know. Making a false statement or knowingly and intentionally omitting an important fact to an investigator or prosecutor is a separate crime. When a prosecutor knows that a person or company has made a false statement or omitted some very relevant and important fact, that gives the prosecutor far too much leverage down the road. Paul Kish strongly suggests that people or companies who know that their names have surfaced in a criminal investigation should at least consult with a competent criminal defense attorney before communicating with an investigator or prosecutor.
There are other people who feel that hiring a criminal defense lawyer at the early stage of a criminal investigation sends the wrong signal. These people sometimes feel that “only the guilty hire criminal defense lawyers.” To some extent, this is true. Some prosecutors and investigators are more likely to think that if a person or company hires an experienced criminal defense lawyer that person or company has something to hide, and therefore must be guilty of something. However, a little reflection will show that this is not always the proper way to evaluate this situation. If the investigation is already focused on some person or entity, the investigators and prosecutors already are heading in that direction, and hiring a lawyer is unlikely to change their preconceived notions. Furthermore, hiring a criminal defense lawyer who identifies him or herself to investigators and prosecutors provides a shield for the client. People, and to a lesser extent companies, have the right to hire an attorney. Once you hire a lawyer, all communications must go through the attorney. Therefore, a well-qualified criminal defense attorney is an extra layer of protection during the early phases of a criminal investigation. Failing to do so could be seen later as a “waiver” of the right to counsel, meaning that anything that the person says, or even fails to say, might be admissible in a court of law. A lawyer has a much harder task fighting against statements made by clients to investigators. It is far better to work with your attorney ahead of any such statements to decide if it even makes sense to answer questions at an early stage of a case.
Another positive aspect of consulting with an experienced criminal defense lawyer during the early stages of an investigation is that the attorney can communicate with other parties involved in the matter. It is very common for lawyers to trade information during the early phases of a matter. Each attorney needs to assess whether he or she can trust the other lawyer, and having a good reputation is key to this process. Some attorneys are known for their honesty, others have the reputation of being less trustworthy. Paul often learns crucial information from the lawyers for other represented parties, through what is called a “joint defense agreement”. A joint defense agreement during an investigation is a process by which the lawyers can informally share information with each other that cannot be provided to the government at a later date.
It is also helpful to consult an experience criminal defense early in an investigation so that the client has some idea of what he or she might be facing. Most people and businesses have absolutely no prior experience with the criminal justice system. They do not know if they face a minor inconvenience or a life-altering experience. A qualified and experienced lawyer can let the client know what to expect, and how he or she can plan for the months and sometimes years during which an investigation can drag out. Please contact Paul if you’d like to discuss the early stages of a criminal investigation.