Facing criminal charges can be a confusing and stressful experience, especially for first-time offenders. If you’ve been arrested on criminal charges, it’s important to sit down and calmly organize your priorities. Once you define your priorities, you’ll feel better and you’ll have a clear picture of what actions you need to take next.
Each person’s priorities will slightly vary. However, everyone facing criminal charges shares the following priorities:
Your first priority is to get a criminal defense attorney. You don’t want to represent yourself and you want to avoid having a public defender if possible.
Call a few local attorneys for a free consultation. During your consultations, ask about their experience as a criminal defense attorney and also inquire about their background. Your ideal attorney will have extensive experience defending people with your charges.
Look for other signs that aren’t so obvious. For example, former prosecutors make excellent attorneys because they know the strategies prosecutors use against accused criminals.
The minute you’re able to make a phone call, start talking to attorneys. The longer you go without an attorney, the higher your risk of making a mistake that will be used against you in court.
Getting incarcerated won’t be easy if you have a household to run. Whether you live alone or with others, take these steps to prepare.
- Line up a foster home for your pet(s). If you have any pets, line up a foster home as soon as possible. Don’t wait until the last minute. Sometimes it can be hard to find someone to help.
- Line up a house sitter. If you end up incarcerated, you’re not going to be able to maintain your household. If you don’t have any dependents, you’re in a better position. However, if you have a roommate living with you, your incarceration might affect them by forcing them to move.
In a roommate situation, let them know what’s going on. If it’s a roommate you trust, ask them if they’d like to stay in your home rent-free in exchange for paying the utility and internet bills. They might say yes, and if they do, you’ll have one less thing to worry about.
- Make a plan for your dependents. If you can’t get on house arrest, you’ll need a plan for your dependents. If you’re a single parent caring for young kids, arrange for family to take care of them. Get a legal document drawn up to ensure your kids go with family and they don’t get taken by the state.
- Delegate responsibilities in your business. If you’re running a business, start delegating your responsibilities to employees or contractors. If that’s not possible, be prepared to put your business on hold.
It’s tough to think about being incarcerated, but with criminal charges, it’s a possibility. Start thinking about your financial responsibilities. Make a list of all your bills and prioritize them in a list. Mark the bills you can’t stop paying without devastating consequences, like your mortgage and car payment.
If you can afford it, pay ahead on your mortgage at least one or two months. If you end up incarcerated, that will give you more time to figure out a plan.
On your list of bills, mark the ones you could cancel without a huge penalty. For example, your cell phone, cable TV, internet, and any random online subscriptions. Write down the phone numbers and your account numbers in case you need to have someone cancel the services for you.
The moment you can, put a friend or family member’s name on your accounts to give them access. You’ll have a hard time giving them access if you’re incarcerated.
Keep yourself grounded and don’t let your emotions get the best of you. No matter what kind of sentence you’re handed, it won’t feel good. However, you can stay in control of your emotions. This doesn’t mean you won’t feel pain; being in control means not allowing your pain to throw you off balance.
Keep your fights legal, not verbal or physical. If you feel like your sentence is completely unfair, talk to your lawyer about filing an appeal. If you let your emotions take over, you won’t be effective in your appeal.
Hope for the best, prepare for the worst
When you hope for the best and prepare for the worst, you won’t be caught off guard by your sentence. Whether you end up being incarcerated, put on house arrest, or acquitted, being prepared for anything will lessen the impact of the outcome.