Pre-Charge Criminal Investigations

Taking Proactive Measures in an Effort to Prevent Formal Charges

The nightmare of a criminal prosecution doesn't happen automatically. It's the end of a multi-step process. There are several decision points along the way, each of which might present an opportunity for your criminal defense lawyer to avoid prosecution altogether. As soon as you become aware charges are being considered against you, you should take action. Contact the Law Office of Robert Perez to allow me to immediately begin my own pre-charge investigation.

Typically, there are three hurdles that must be crossed before an event ripens into a criminal prosecution and goes to court:

  • A reporting party (the alleged "victim") makes a complaint to police;
  • Police investigate and then refer the case to a prosecutor;
  • A prosecutor reviews police reports and files charges.

Settling the Matter With the Alleged Victim

There is an opportunity at each of these three steps to abort a criminal prosecution before it results in a prosecution. If the alleged "victim" can be contacted before calling police, it's possible that the matter can be "settled" at that point without any police involvement at all. It's important that you not attempt this yourself and that you have your criminal defense attorney handle the negotiations for you in order to avoid possible exposure to witness tampering charges, a felony. There are legal, ethical ways to pursue this if done properly.

I have successfully negotiated directly with alleged victims in past cases and avoided police involvement for my clients. It doesn't happen every time, but it's often worth trying. Of course, this only works if I'm contacted early and before police involvement.

Working Things out With the Police

Second, if the matter has already been reported to police, your lawyer can still contact the police before they refer the matter to prosecutors and attempt to persuade them not to refer it. Although this is rare and hard to do, I've managed to do it on several occasions, because I know the factors that police use to evaluate whether a case is worth pursuing. They don't need or want the extra work, and if they can be persuaded that the case should not be referred, they will exercise that option. Again, this doesn't happen every time or even very often, but it's another way to fight a case and is always worth trying.

Speaking With the Prosecutor

Finally, if police have referred a matter to prosecutors for their review, your lawyer can contact the prosecutor's office before they file charges and attempt to persuade them not to. This is the first opportunity for a government lawyer to review the case and decide if it should be filed based on the legal issues presented. Most prosecuting offices have official charging standards familiar to any experienced criminal defense lawyer. If your case doesn't meet the office's charging standards or is a close call, your lawyer should attempt to persuade the prosecutor that this is a case not worth filing.

In one case, I represented a police officer who was fired from his department after allegations that he had sex with a minor and child pornography was found on his police laptop. Even in the face of this evidence and in the current politically charged environment, I was able to make the case to prosecutors not to file charges. In the end, prosecutors agreed and declined to file charges, and my client avoided a costly and embarrassing public trial.

Don't let anyone tell you that you should "just wait" for a summons to appear in the mail or that "nothing can be done until you're charged". In my pre-charge investigations practice, I have managed to avoid prosecution in many cases. It's more common than you might think. Although it remains true that in most cases, the matter usually will result in the filing of charges, you will never know if you had the opportunity to avoid prosecution unless your lawyer has made the effort. If you have been accused of, or are under investigation for, any crime at all, it's critical that you contact me as soon as possible. Don't miss this one opportunity by default.