6. You talked to non-lawyers and seek their advice on what to do and how to proceed or inquired as to the state of the law.

Talking again, and again to someone that is not your lawyer. This is a virtual certainty to either get you in trouble, or confused, scared, angry, or all the above. Whether you are in jail, or you haven’t hired a lawyer yet, or you don’t know if you need a lawyer, or maybe you know someone that “caught a case” or was in prison or went to trial, or maybe you are a professional and you are surrounded by “smart” people all day long and simply want to “test the waters” and get a feel of what people think, all the above will get you hurt.

The only person you can safely communicate with about your case is a qualified criminal defense lawyer. “Jailhouse lawyers” and “smart” people in your life never provide you the attorney-client confidences and knowledge you absolutely need to make intelligent decisions about your case. Privilege does not exist with your buddy, friend, or co-worker. Privilege only exists between you and your lawyer. The law, your options, available defenses, theories, and your chances for success are to be found only within the friendly confines of your attorney’s office. If you want to get bad advice, if you want to be worried about issues you need not worry about, if you want to create a bunch of potential adverse witnesses, then by all means go talk to whomever you want.

You went to a psychologist or license clinical social worker or your therapist, or maybe you talked to your physician about the allegations. If they are true, and you admitted to them you did something criminal, and it was of the sexual ilk and/or involved children, that is getting reported. It will probably be reported before you even get home or back to work. “But I wanted to get help, and I thought if I went to counseling that the DA or Court would go easier on me.” No excuse. DO NOT ENGAGE IN SELF HELP! Self-help is really just self-harm.

7. You decided to destroy evidence.

Please tell me you didn’t erase that, destroy that, shred that, throw it away, delete that, or “lost” it. Too often a client again engages in “self-help.” They believe, usually in error, that a certain piece of evidence they believe will hurt them, won’t hurt them if it disappears. The number of times that has been true is overwhelmed by those times it has hurt them by an exponentially greater number. In short, it hurts you way more than it helps you.

Often you see that if the data had not magically disappeared, the contents would have actually served the client well and aided in the defense. I see it often in text messages, emails, or social network messaging. The client is communicating digitally with the accuser. Client gets wind the accuser has gone to the police, etc. Client’s digital messages magically cease to exist. What the client did not know, and couldn’t have known at the time, was the accuser redacted a number of the messages to and from her to make her look like a saint and the client to look like a sex craving nut job. Had the client saved the messages, I could have used the “lies” on the part of the accuser to destroy her credibility with the Court and DA’s office. Instead, the evidence cannot be challenged by the truth and you look like you destroyed the evidence because you are the poster child for sex crimes. You never know if the evidence will help you or hurt you.

8. You waived your rights-search warrants, DNA samples, handwriting exemplars, passwords to your cell phone/computer.

If the police showed up and wanted to search me, my home, take a DNA sample, handwriting exemplar, search my computer, or sign a search waiver I am calling a lawyer. Wait, you are a lawyer. You are the lawyer I am going to hire, why would you call someone else? He who represents himself has a fool for a client. This is what I do, all day, every single day. Knowing that, I would still call a lawyer to advise me on what to do.

First, I would tell the police “No.” Let me chat with a lawyer first. If they have a warrant, they don’t need my permission anyway. If they don’t have a warrant, they need my permission. So before I just start giving the farm away, I am going to let an objective professional criminal lawyer examine the situation and advise me on how to proceed. “But what about if I am innocent, won’t it make me look guilty?” To whom? The police? Remember, they already think you are guilty, who cares what they think. I care more about how I spend the rest of my days. Innocent or not, I do not want to spend the rest of my days in prison.

Make them get a warrant. Do not give them anything until you have first retained a lawyer. Then let your lawyer make that call. I would.

9. You made social media posts about the case, allegations, witnesses, prosecutor, law enforcement or events in your life that are inconsistent with the message, theme and theory of your defense.

Do not post anything on social media if you are under investigation, an allegation has been made, you heard an allegation was made, or you have been charged. Each of those posts is another nail in the proverbial coffin. STOP IT. Once any of the above triggers has been pulled or tripped, immediately shut down all social media. Do not turn it on, look at it, read it, anything. Even posts unrelated to the allegation can hurt you. Posts involving alcohol, drugs, parties, travel, luxury, excess, sex, guns, criminal activity, religion, etc. The list of what can hurt you just goes on and on. Plus, it is almost impossible not to defend yourself if you see or read a post that makes you look bad. Each of these posts can be exhibits blown up extra-large to make you look terrible in the eyes of the jurors.

It is irresistible to confront those posts that antagonize you. Next thing you know you are explaining events, detailing facts, providing excuses or alibis, that may or may not be true. It is all in an effort to make you look good or at least not bad. Unfortunately for your case, not everything that is said on social media is the truth and your embellishments, lies, omissions, factual inaccuracies, and statement of the case, will be used against you.

Allow your lawyer to review the evidence and craft the theory and theme of your case. You are not qualified to do that work, leave it to the professional, that is why you hired him.

10. You did not seek the advice of a qualified lawyer immediately.

As explained above, the pitfalls are many, far too many. You can’t navigate your way out of the problem, explain your way out, fix this, ignore it, fight it, or finesse a solution. Too often does the client look down in defeat and simply say, “Why didn’t I come to you sooner?”

If it is money, it won’t get cheaper with time. You don’t know how expensive it is, but you do know it is expensive. You need to find out the costs so you can start working on putting it together. Regardless of who you are or what you do for a living, a defense to these charges is not cheap. It doesn’t matter, you are smart and you know cheap is not what you want anyway. Your freedom, your life, your livelihood, your marriage, your children, these are not the things that you defend on the cheap. Each of these important aspects of your life is basically the whole reason you wake up every day. Maybe you don’t have all of the money right now, maybe you won’t have it for a while, it doesn’t matter, get in and see a lawyer now. The two of you will figure it out.

Maybe you don’t think you will need a lawyer. Maybe you think you won’t get charged. You really do not want to figure out what to do AFTER the police have shown up, arrested you, and you are down at booking at the jail. Do not do the ostrich. Do not bury your head in the sand and hope it just won’t happen to you. Maybe it won’t. But if it does happen, this nightmare has now become your life, what is your plan? What do you do each step of the way? How much money do you need, who do you call, who should I use for bail, what is bail, what is the arraignment, when do I need to hire you, how long does this take, etc.? An ounce of prevention is what meeting with a lawyer is all about. If the other shoe drops so to speak, you must be ready.

You are scared or embarrassed. You don’t want to look a lawyer in the eye and tell them about your problems, allegations, issues and the situation. The problem and allegations better scare you, and at the least create an abundant sense of urgency to find a solution. However, talking with a lawyer and telling him about these issues should never be a scary event or an embarrassing situation.

Now, I would expect you would be nervous, I am a stranger after all, and talking to a stranger about such intimate and personal issues would make anybody nervous. Knowing this, I strive every time I meet with a new or old client to constantly focus on creating a “judgment free zone,” a safe place where you can talk about the most sensitive of issues without concern for how someone might see you.

My job is to help, to fix and solve problems, create confidence, help you to sleep at night, to start eating again, to find hope, relieve anxiety and stress, and understand your problems. It doesn’t matter how bad the allegations or charges are, I will never judge you. I believe each of my clients are not the sum total of their charges or allegations. That charge, that allegation is not who you are. You are made up of all of the seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, and years that have occurred before and after the event in question. Think of all the good you have brought to the world. That one brief moment in time that might be only a few seconds, minutes, or hours. It is such a minuscule amount compared to the balance of your life. The balance of your life, that is what I want to communicate to the DA, judge, and ultimately the jury.

Avoid problems 1-9 by talking with a lawyer as early in the process as possible. You want to meet with me, but I am in trial or I’m at CLE/training, or sick, or on vacation, should you wait? NO. Call me first. I will likely have one of the lawyers in my office, or with whom I associate, meet with you and make sure you avoid problems 1-9. When I am back or available again, I will get you in for an initial client meeting.

You can’t get in touch with me at all and time is of the essence? First, leave a message so I can call you back. Leave a phone number and an email address. Please speak clearly. Someone in my office will call you back or email you and we can go from there.

If you call and do not leave a message, the chance of a quick response is greatly reduced.


Ok, so you did something in 1 through 10 above, all is not lost and not by a long shot. I see these issues in a client’s case more often than not, and it is still possible to get great, survivable results. If you did one or more of these things, first things first, stop doing them right now.

Second, understand that we won’t know what the issues and problems are or the severity, until you come in and sit down and discuss your situation with me. You very well might be worrying about something that has little or maybe no impact on your case. Get yourself some peace of mind. However, if you did something that really hurt your case, you need to know that sooner, rather than later, and so do I. It still doesn’t mean it is the end of the world. Tough, different, unique cases are what I build my practice on. I had a client tell me one day she saw me as the Patron Lawyer of Lost Causes. She said that is what the PLLC stands for after my firm name.

Lee Berlin
Dedicated to defending clients accused of domestic violence, sex & violent crimes throughout eastern Oklahoma.