Witness Attorney, and Pre-Charge Counsel
Criminal Defense Lawyers are Human Rights Lawyers, protecting people from abuse by the government and its police force. The most good can be done in situations where no criminal Complaint has yet been prepared or filed by a prosecutor. The sooner a witness or a police-target seeks and obtains legal counsel, the better it will be for them.
Thomas C Gallagher has over 30 years of experience as a Minneapolis criminal lawyer, providing legal counsel and representation as a:
- Witness Attorney
- Pre-Charge Counsel
- Grand Jury Witness Attorney
- Police Interrogation Counsel
- Immunity Lawyer
- Victim Attorney
Have you heard news reports about people believed to have witnessed a crime being unwilling to either report it to the police or give a witness statement? Ever wonder why? Could it be that merely being there — mere presence — could be enough evidence for a prosecutor to falsely accuse an innocent person of a crime they did not commit? Actual innocence has not been enough to prevent just this kind of injustice from happening right here in our United States – the nation with the highest per capita incarceration rate in the world, and at any time in the history of the world.
Unfortunately, a person reporting a crime or giving a witness statement can sometimes result in that person being charged with a crime, even if they are innocent. A person could have other reasons as well, for not wanting to give a statement or otherwise cooperate with police. One example of this can be the police investigation and criminal prosecution of a loved one. Though ancient, common law evidentiary privileges, like the spousal privilege, can provide some legal protection to the non-cooperating witness; a good lawyer can help a witness assert his or her legal rights in these situations.
Does a witness (or purported witness) have legal rights? Yes. Like most legal rights, however, you must assert them in order to be protected by them. A good criminal lawyer can help shield you from the tricks, lies and pressure that police sometimes use to get statements; and that prosecutors sometimes use to force “cooperation.”
For lack of a better term, criminal lawyers advising people who have not been charged with a crime, but have concern that they could be charged, can be said to be providing “pre-charge counsel.” The goal of pre-charge legal counsel is to reduce the likelihood of being charged with a crime; and secondarily, to reduce or avoid the possibility of conviction if charged. In general, this is accomplished in two ways: increase awareness of and compliance with the law in the present and future; and, avoid helping the government obtain evidence of past events via future searches, seizures and statements.
People who have the benefit of pre-charge legal counsel can significantly reduce the chance of being charged with a crime, and significantly improve the outcome that would otherwise occur.
Grand Jury Witness Attorney
Most people are aware of what juries do in criminal jury trials, decide the facts and apply the law consistent with their moral code, based upon what is presented to them and their sense of right and wrong. That kind of jury is also called a Petite Jury. Originally intended to limit government power, a Grand Jury in modern times has become a tool of the prosecutor, to subpoenae witnesses and evidence, and to request an Indictment charging a crime. Often, a person summoned to a Grand Jury investigation to testify as witness is later indicted or charged with a crime as a result of their own Grand Jury 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. It is important to seek help and counsel form a good criminal defense attorney as soon as possible, before testifying, in order to protect your rights.
Target Letter from United States Attorney’s Office
A person may receive what we call a “Target Letter” from the United States Attorney’s Office, letting them know that they are a target of a federal investigation. Usually this means they have not yet been charged with a federal crime, 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 counsel and representation. The federal prosecutors may be interested in negotiating prior to charging. This can be helpful for the “target” to explore, through their lawyer. Other times, it’s possible after deep and thoughtful consideration and counsel from an experienced federal defense lawyer like Gallagher, the “target” may choose to hunker down and prepare for what may come (possibly a federal Grand Jury). 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. When a police officer, investigator, government employee or other person asks you questions, you cannot be compelled by the government to answer in most situations. Any statements or words you could give police today, you could provide at a later date, after consulting your legal counsel. The important question is, if you refuse, what can they do about it? In the employment law context, there may be situations where refusal to answer questions could be used to justify employee disciplinary action of some kind. But in the context of a questioning by police, you cannot be forced to answer questions where there is any chance it could be used against you, and you have the right to have legal counsel present. A key reality here is that most normal people do not know how what they say could be used against them or how. Police often exploit that ignorance. A lawyer can help protect you in ways you would not otherwise understand until after it was too late.
If a witness asserts their Fifth Amendment Privilege and refuses to testify, 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, to help the witness avoid testifying, or get the best possible, most complete immunity.
Thomas Gallagher has represented numerous people with pre-charge counsel, and witness representation, since 1988 – including many murder and serious felony cases in Minnesota.
If you think you could benefit from this type of legal help, give Gallagher a call at (612) 333-1500.