A violent crime charge can lead to serious penalties. But before your case gets to the sentencing phase, you may be contacted by law enforcement officials who are investigating and trying to gather evidence against you. If they call you in for questioning, remember that you have the right to remain silent. You also have the right to consult with an attorney before providing statements. By strategically handling interactions with law enforcement officers, you prevent authorities from getting information that can be used against you and are better prepared to develop a compelling defense against the accusations.
If you’re facing charges in Norman, schedule a consultation with the Law Offices of Keith J. Nedwick, P.C. by contacting us at (866) 590-8173 today.
What Is a Violent Crime?
Generally, a violent crime is an offense involving force or threatened force against another person. They contrast with property crimes, which involve damaging or attempting to damage someone else’s assets.
In Oklahoma, various offenses are classified as violent crimes.
Under 57 O.S. § 571, these offenses include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Poisoning, shooting, or assaulting with intent to kill,
- Child abuse,
- Rape, and
- Human trafficking.
Because violent crimes put the health and safety of others at risk, they are harshly punished. The penalties a court can impose depend on the conduct and other aggravating or mitigating factors.
Below are examples of potential punishments associated with select violent crimes:
- Assault: Imprisonment for not more than 30 days and/or a fine of not more than $500
- Kidnapping: Imprisonment for not more than 30 years.
- Robbery: First-degree: Imprisonment for not less than 10 years. Second-degree: Imprisonment for not more than 10 years.
What If Law Enforcement Officials Question You?
When the police receive a report of an alleged offense, officers will investigate to determine whether probable cause exists to believe a crime was committed and identify a suspect. Their investigation may include gathering physical evidence and speaking with witnesses or victims. It may also involve interrogating the alleged offender.
If law enforcement officials want to question you about your involvement in an alleged violent crime, they are not looking to clear your good name. They are trying to gather information that could tie you to the offense. For instance, they might examine your responses to determine whether what you said you did on a certain day puts you in the place the crime was committed.
After getting your statements, law enforcement officials will start to build a case against you. They’ll eventually hand their findings to a prosecutor who will use the information to attempt to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Know that you have the right to remain silent during any interactions with law enforcement officers. You do not have to answer any questions and cannot face penalties for declining to provide statements.
To exercise this right, you must expressly state your intent. In other words, you must verbally let the officers know that you are staying quiet. Remaining silent without actually saying that you are invoking your protections can be interpreted as self-incrimination.
Why Is It Important to Remain Silent?
Law enforcement officers and prosecutors can use anything you say against you in court. Even if you are defending yourself or explaining how you can’t be the alleged offender, your statements could be twisted and used to prove the government’s arguments.
Staying quiet protects you from making statements that could implicate you. Thus, you avoid hurting your case and increase the chances of pursuing a favorable outcome.
Can You Have an Attorney Present?
In addition to your right to remain silent, you also have the right to have a criminal defense lawyer present during any interactions with law enforcement officials. You must let the officers know that you want to be represented by counsel. When you do so, their interrogation should stop and not continue until your lawyer is with you.
What Can a Lawyer Do for You?
A lawyer can be instrumental in helping you through the justice process, even from the early stages of your case. As soon as you’re being investigated, an attorney can start protecting your rights. They can tell you what questions to answer and which to stay silent on. They can also review the investigators’ actions and determine whether anything they have done has violated your rights. Any misuse of authority should be addressed and remedied.
Your attorney can also offer guidance on handling future stages of your case. They can stand by you during court appearances, review and analyze evidence, and build arguments to challenge the violent crime charges against you.
Contact Our Firm Today
If you have been accused of a violent crime, immediately invoke your rights, especially the rights to remain silent and be represented by counsel. Doing so prevents you from saying anything that could adversely impact your case.