Few things have the potential to stop you in your tracks faster than criminal charges. After all, depending on the nature of the charge, you may eventually spend time behind bars, pay stiff fines or even lose basic rights. You may also not understand the criminal justice system.
Learning about the process may put your mind at ease. You also undoubtedly want to know both your chances of conviction and the options you have for defending yourself. For at least three reasons, you should not ask your friends for advice about your criminal charges.
1. Criminal law is complex
Even though federal and state criminal statutes expressly define what constitutes a crime, criminal law involves more than reading the text of a statute. Each criminal offense has elements prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt. Courts may have addressed these elements in lengthy opinions that can be difficult to find and sometimes hard to understand.
2. Anecdotes do not do you much good
Your friends probably know at least one person who has the same story as you. The problem, of course, is that all criminal matters are inherently unique. Even if someone else’s story matches yours, you cannot predict how a judge or jury may act. Likewise, you never know whether your friends have all the relevant information.
3. Your friends may testify against you
With few exceptions, anything you tell your lawyer remains confidential under the rules of attorney-client privilege. That is not true with your friends. In fact, prosecutors may compel your friends to testify against you. Accordingly, if you are facing criminal charges, it is usually best to remain silent.
While there may be nothing inherently wrong with leaning on your friends for emotional support, talking to them about your criminal charges is likely to do far more harm than good. Ultimately, seeking competent legal counsel is the most effective way to protect yourself and your future.