What does a witness attorney do? A pre-charge investigations attorney? A victim attorney? One common thread is that the lawyer is not representing a person currently charged with a crime.
Human rights in criminal law
Criminal Defense Lawyers are Human Rights Lawyers, protecting people from abuse by the government and its police force.
The power of early intervention
A criminal defense lawyer can do the most good early on. We have more impact where a prosecutor has not yet prepared or filed criminal Complaint. The sooner in the process a witness or a police-target obtains legal counsel, the better it will be for them.
Experience on your side
- Witness Attorney
- Pre-Charge Investigations Attorney
- Grand Jury Witness Attorney
- Police Interrogation Counsel
- Immunity Lawyer
- Victim Attorney
Have you heard news reports about witnesses being unwilling to call police or give a statement? Ever wonder why? Could merely being there — mere presence — be enough evidence for a prosecutor to accuse an innocent person?
Actual innocence has not been enough to prevent just this kind of injustice from happening. After all, the United States has the highest per capita incarceration rate in the world.
Unfortunately, prosecutors sometimes charge persons who report crimes or give witness statements with a crime, even though innocent.
A person could have other reasons as well, for not wanting to give a statement or cooperate with police. One example of this can be the police investigation and criminal prosecution of a loved one. Or, you could have concerns about immigration law consequences.
Though ancient, common law evidentiary privileges, like the spousal privilege, can provide some legal protection to the non-cooperating witness; a good witness attorney can help a witness assert his or her legal rights.
Does a witness have legal rights? Yes. Like most legal rights, however, you must assert them to be protected by them. A good witness attorney can help shield you. We can protect you from the tricks, lies and pressure that police sometimes use to get statements. And we can guard you against those methods prosecutors sometimes use to force “cooperation.”
A crime victim is hurt by a criminal act. To call a witness a victim during a trial is unfairly prejudicial to the defendant. After all, the reason for the trial is to test the presumption of innocence with evidence. The victim label presumes guilt.
The label is troublesome also since few us want to play the role of victim. And we have good reasons for that.
But, despite the labeling issues, prosecutors call complaining witnesses “victims.” All too often however, they are victims of the prosecutor. Why? Because the “victim” often wants the charges dismissed, and the No Contact Order dropped. But the prosecutor won’t listen. Instead the prosecutor may threaten and manipulate the victim to secure cooperation.
When that happens, the witness may want to hire a victim attorney for protection. The victim attorney can help the witness assert her legal rights and be heard. Minnesota has a Victim’s Rights law. Your victim attorney can help you claim your rights under that law.
Pre-Charge Investigations Attorney
Criminal lawyers advising people who are not facing criminal charges, but have concern they might be, provide “pre-charge counsel.”
The goal of a pre-charge investigations attorney is to reduce the risk of criminal charges; and secondarily, to reduce or avoid the possibility of conviction if charged.
Past and future: In general, we do this in two ways. We increase awareness of and compliance with the law in the present and future. And, we avoid helping the government get evidence of past events via future searches, seizures and statements.
For example, what is you end up being accused of a sex crime you did not commit. Police want a statement. What should you do? Retain a pre-charge investigations attorney, immediately, before making a decision that could cost you. Remember, the innocent have more to lose by talking to police.
People who have a pre-charge investigations attorney can reduce the chance of criminal charges, and improve future outcomes.
Grand Jury Witness Attorney
Most people are aware of what juries do in criminal jury trials. Juries decide the facts and apply the law consistent with their moral code. The jurors act upon available evidence and their sense of right and wrong. We call that kind of jury a Petite Jury.
Originally intended to limit government power, a Grand Jury in modern times has become a tool of the prosecutor. The prosecutor uses the grand jury to subpoenae witnesses and evidence; and to request an Indictment charging a crime.
A witness testifying to a Grand Jury to may later face criminal indictment as a result of their own testimony. That person may or may not have been assured that they were “not a target,” beforehand.
Do you have rights as a Grand Jury witness? Yes. Seek help from a good criminal witness attorney as soon as possible, before testifying. Protect your rights.
Target Letter from United States Attorney’s Office
A person may receive a “Target Letter” from the United States Attorney’s Office. The target letter lets them know that they are a target of a federal investigation. Usually this means they have not been charged with a federal crime yet , but are about to be.
These letters are short, and tend to raise more questions than answers for the recipient. What should a person do upon receiving such a letter? Retain a federal criminal defense lawyer like Thomas Gallagher for pre-charge investigations attorney representation.
The federal prosecutors may be open to negotiating prior to charging. This can be helpful for the “target” to explore, through their lawyer. Or, after thorough legal counsel, the “target” may choose to hunker down and prepare for what may come.
Either way, events move fast after a target-letter. Retaining a lawyer to help with it should be done immediately.
Police Interrogation Counsel
Do not lie. Do not say anything. A police officer, investigator, or government employee cannot compel you to answer questions in most situations.
Any statements or words you could give police today; you could provide at a later date, after consulting your lawyer.
If you refuse, what can they do about it? In the employment law context, there may be situations where refusal to answer questions could justify employee disciplinary action.
But in a criminal law context, they can’t force you to answer if there is any chance of using it against you. And you have the right to have legal counsel present.
The reality is that most people do not know how what they say could be used against them. Police often exploit that ignorance. Even if police tell you that you are “just a witness,” it could be a trick. A good witness attorney can protect you.
A lawyer can help protect you in ways you would not otherwise understand until after it was too late.
A witness may assert their Fifth Amendment Privilege and refuse to testify. If so, the prosecutor may respond with an offer of immunity.
But there are several different varieties of immunity, from weak to strong. Also – immunity granted in one jurisdiction is not binding upon another, e.g., international, federal, different states, tribal court.
A witness can assert their Fifth Amendment Privilege and refuse to testify if they have any exposure to criminal prosecution in any jurisdiction (including perjury or previous false statement).
A good criminal lawyer can help assert the witness’s rights. We can help the witness avoid testifying, or get the best possible, most complete immunity.
Gallagher Criminal Defense can help you prevent and avoid trouble
Thomas Gallagher has represented many clients as a pre-charge investigations attorney, witness attorney, and as a victim attorney. And he’s done so since 1988 – including murder and serious felony cases in Minnesota.
Do you need a lawyer?
If you think you could benefit from this type of legal help, give Gallagher a call at 612 333-1500