First, here is my proviso and you will hear it a lot. I am NOT AN ATTORNEY. I am not writing this in any way as a form of legal advice. That’s not my role. My role is to help people advocate for themselves and find the criminal defense attorney that is the best fit for their needs.
If you have had a visit from some type of law enforcement and they told you that you are now under investigation, you need an attorney. Most people do not have a criminal defense attorney on speed dial so you, or a family member or loved one, are likely frantically trying to figure out several things. First, what attorney do you use and second, how the heck are you going to pay for it?
What do you need to look for in an attorney?
- You need an attorney who has experience with sex crimes. Many criminal defense attorneys spend their entire careers mostly working with DUI type cases. They don’t all work with sex crimes. If you are searching attorney websites, they should state on the site that they have defended sex crimes. If their website does not state this specifically, if you call, you need to ask whether or not they have experience with sex crimes. And by experience I don’t mean they have tried one or two cases. I mean that they have worked on many sex crime cases and know all about the laws and how to help mitigate your sentence.
- You need an attorney who has experience with sex crimes in your jurisdiction. This means a few things. First, they obviously need to have passed the bar and are approved to practice law in your state. Second, they need to have experience in the court where your case will be seen. What court your case will be in depends on who showed up at your door. If the FBI or Homeland Security is investigating you, you need a defense attorney who has experience trying sex crimes in the federal court system. The federal courts and county courts handle these cases differently. There are nuances in the Federal System that someone who has not seen cases in that venue will not know. If your case is a county case, you want an attorney who has worked on a number of cases in your county. Part of this process is the relationship that your attorney has with the prosecutor.
- You need an attorney with a strategy. When you are interviewing attorneys, you want to know what type of strategy they propose for your case. At this point, they will not be able to create an actual solid plan as they do not know the details and will not know until the discovery is provided by the prosecution. However, they should still have an idea of how to proceed and give you some things that you can do now to help with the case.
- You need an attorney with good reviews. Just like a doctor or a restaurant, there are sites that will help you find a lawyer and also will give you information on the lawyers rating. For example, you can go on avvo.com to find a criminal defense attorney and read client ratings. The website www.superlawyer.com can help you find a criminal defense attorney with a good track record and good ratings.
In the legal process, the decision about what attorney to use is so important. I cannot understate how critical it is to have an attorney with experience specific to cybersex crimes. Do not choose rashly or lightly. Take some time. Talk to the attorney. Do some research. Any attorney is going to be expensive. The price tag will likely be daunting. If you have any ability to find the money for an attorney, it is my suggestion that you go for it. If you cannot afford an attorney and have to use a public defender, your defense will not be nearly as customized, and you will have to do a lot of this work yourself.
The next article in our series will discuss the psychosexual evaluation.
Dr. Weeks is a forensic psychologist who specializes in the evaluation and treatment of cybersex offenders. Her treatment program provides counseling both pre-trial and after adjudication and she provides expert witness testimony.