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You will need a criminal defence solicitor if you are suspected of committing a criminal offence. Your solicitor can represent you throughout proceedings, including at police interviews, in court and at appeal. Your solicitor can also advise you of your legal rights, and ensure that you are subject to a fair and just process.
10 situations where you need a solicitor
1. You are invited for a voluntary police interview
If you are invited for a voluntary police interview, you should ask a criminal defence solicitor to accompany you. This is free to everyone under the Legal Aid scheme.
You should take all interviews with the police seriously, even if you have not been arrested. The police want to question you about your possible involvement in a criminal offence, and are looking for incriminating evidence. The police may say that it is just an informal chat, but do not be fooled: you will be given a formal caution at the start of the interview and it will be recorded. Your answers may be used as evidence, should your case later go to court.
When you ask a solicitor to accompany you to a voluntary interview, your solicitor can request disclosure from the police. This is when the police provide details about why you are a suspect and the evidence against you. You cannot do this yourself; only legal representatives are able to request disclosure. This puts you at an advantage, as you will have a better insight as to why you are released under investigation.
Your solicitor can then advise you on what questions to answer, and how to answer them. This ensures that you do not accidentally jeopardise your case. Your solicitor can also make certain that your legal rights are being upheld.
2. You are arrested
If you are arrested and taken to a police station for an interview, you should contact a criminal defence solicitor for legal advice. This is free to everyone under the Legal Aid scheme.
Free police station representation is a legal right given to everyone in England and Wales. If you are being held in a police cell, you are allowed to ask to speak to a solicitor. You can either contact a solicitor of your choosing, such as the solicitors here at Ashmans. Or you can speak to the duty solicitor who is on call 24 hours a day. If your mobile has been taken away, the police must contact a solicitor for you, or allow you to use a phone.
A criminal defence solicitor can then act on your behalf, working to get you released from custody as soon as possible. A solicitor will ensure that your legal rights are being upheld and that you are not detained for longer than is legally allowed. A solicitor will also accompany you during any police interviews, advising you what questions to answer and how to answer them. This ensures you are not misled into answering a question that would incriminate you.
As outlined above, a solicitor can request disclosure from the police before any interviews take place. This is a significant help, as you can find out why you have been arrested and the evidence the police have against you.
3. Your rights are being breached
If your legal rights are breached – whether by the police, the jury or the judiciary – then a criminal defence solicitor can take action to remedy the wrongs.
Everyone in England and Wales is protected by certain legal rights, including those who are suspected of (or convicted of) a criminal offence. For example, you can only be held in a police station for 24 hours without being charged. This can be extended to 36 hours, if the police suspect you have committed a serious offence and permission is given by the court or a police superintendent.
If you are arrested, then you have the right to:
- Free legal advice
- Tell someone where you are
- Get medical help if you feel unwell
- See the police Code of Practice
You are also protected from unlawful stop and searches, the unlawful seizure of evidence, and unfair or biased trials.
If your legal rights are breached at any point during your interaction with the criminal justice system, then your solicitor will quickly identify the problem. This can be hard to do on your own, as the rules around what is (and what is not) allowed are very complex. Your solicitor can then take action to protect your rights, ensuring you are subject to a fair and just process. This might include demanding your release from custody, seeking to have certain evidence struck out, or calling for a re-trial.
4. Your personal possessions have been seized
Your criminal defence solicitor can ask for your personal items to be returned as soon as possible, if they have been seized as part of an investigation.
Under certain circumstances, police can seize items such as your phone, documents, laptop and computer. They are allowed to keep these items for the duration of their investigation, until they no longer need them. This can pose something of a problem, especially if you are reliant on your electronic devices for work, or you need to refer to your paperwork.
Although a solicitor cannot demand that your personal possessions be returned, they can ask for the matter to be expedited.
5. You are formally charged with a criminal offence
If you are charged with a criminal offence, then a criminal defence solicitor can represent you throughout legal proceedings, working to get the best outcome on your behalf.
Just because you have been charged, does not necessarily mean that you are guilty. Unfortunately, mistakes are made, both by the police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). We have represented many individuals who have been wrongly accused of a criminal offence. We understand how scary this is, but a criminal defence solicitor can present your case to establish your innocence.
Your solicitor will put together your defence. The burden is on the prosecution to prove your guilt beyond reasonable doubt. Your solicitor’s job is to undermine their case. Your solicitor will work with various experts to achieve this outcome, including forensic experts and medical experts. If your case goes to Crown Court, then your solicitor will also instruct a barrister.
Solicitors have years of training and experience. Defendants who have legal representation tend to get much better results than those who represent themselves.
6. You are accused of committing a motoring offence
Criminal defence solicitors represent those accused of a wide range of criminal offence – including motoring offences.
You might not think of yourself as a criminal when you speed or run a red light, but such actions are against the law. While minor motoring offences typically result in a Fixed Penalty Notice, more serious offences can (and often do) end up in court. If convicted you could face a driving disqualification. This can have a major impact on your life, particularly your earning capacity. Some defendants even receive a prison sentence.
A defence solicitor who deals with motoring offences can represent you throughout proceedings. Those charged with motoring offences are often badly shaken, as it is usually their first time being on the wrong side of the law. A solicitor can apply their legal expertise to minimise the consequences and secure a favourable outcome.
7. You want to plead guilty to a criminal offence
Even if you want to plead guilty to a criminal offence, then you still need a solicitor on your side. This is because there may be mitigating factors that will persuade the court to show leniency during sentencing. For example, it could be that you acted in a certain way because you have mental health issues. If these mitigating factors are not submitted at your sentencing hearing, then you could receive a sentence that is grossly unfair.
8. You want to appeal your conviction
If you have been found guilty of a criminal offence and the verdict is unsafe, you can pursue an appeal.
A criminal defence solicitor can advise whether you have grounds to appeal your conviction. If so, your solicitor can put together your case and submit it to the Court of Appeal. This may result in your conviction being overturned, or it may lead to a re-trial.
9. You want to appeal your sentence
If you have been found guilty of a criminal offence and you think the sentence is unduly harsh, you can pursue an appeal.
A defence solicitor can advise whether you have grounds to appeal your sentence. If so, your solicitor can put together your case and submit it to the Court of Appeal. This may result in your sentence being reduced.
10. You are subject to POCA proceedings
If you are convicted of a financial crime – such as fraud – then you may be subject to POCA proceedings. This is when the legal system seeks to recover the proceeds of crime. A criminal defence solicitor can work to get the benefit figure reduced, helping to preserve your assets. A solicitor can also fight against any other measures implemented during confiscation proceedings, such as a Restraint Order.
Reasons Why You Need A Solicitor
If you need a defence solicitor for any of the reasons outlined above, then we are here to help you. We are a leading firm of defence lawyers and have offices in London, Leeds, Sheffield, Huddersfield and Dewsbury. If you live in England or Wales, we can assist with your legal matter.
More useful legal resources
- The Role Of Your Solicitor At The Police Station
- Can The Police Interview Me When They Want
- What To Expect When Attending Court
- How Do I Appeal A Criminal Conviction
- Prison Categories Explained
- The Rules On Prison Visits
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