The suspicion of involvement in criminal activity may not invoke an immediate arrest, but rather, initial evidence collecting is performed by the police. As an incredibly vital stage in the prosecution of a criminal defendant, the pre-file or pre-trial investigation seeks to solidify the defense’s case before the filing of charges and subsequent arrest. Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney specializes in aiding and equipping defendants to handle the onslaught of a California pre-file investigation.
What is a Pre-File Investigation?
A pre-file investigation is carried out by a criminal defense attorney on behalf of the defendant. This is done where an individual learns that a law enforcement officer is investigating them prior to making an arrest or filing formal charges. The criminal defense lawyer seeks to gather enough proof to persuade the prosecution team, headed by the District Attorney, to suspend the charges. The defense engenders to induce the filing of no charges or to file those that have a lesser impact than contemplated before.
An aggressive attorney for a pre-file investigation might question the witnesses that are expected to testify for the prosecution. This is common in matters that deal with vehicle code violations such as 23103 reckless driving. The defense lawyer may also consult with the prosecution experts such as forensic investigators where an expected murder or rape charge is to be laid against a defendant. California penal code 261 rape law, for instance, allows for a victim background check to counter the occurrence of false accusations.
Pre-File Investigation in a California Criminal Case
Before the official charges are filed, the legal representation for a defendant facing police or other criminal agency reviews must initiate the procedure of a pre-file investigation. Allegations or suspicion of criminal activity by the police requires careful consideration since charges are pending. To counter arrest and possible jail time, a criminal defendant secures a pre-file investigative attorney with the aim of defeating the charge filing process.
The investigating authorities in criminal cases compile a report that once complete, is submitted to the district attorney's office. A criminal defense attorney makes an obstructive maneuver before the deliberations of the district attorney can result in a criminal misdemeanor or felony charge. The defense attorney must find and interview the witnesses that have been earmarked by the police. There is also a possibility that other witnesses are available that have failed to present their testimonies due to the fear of authorities.
What Should A Criminal Defendant Expect In Pre-File Investigations?
A legal representative reaches out to victims and witnesses for augmenting evidence that exonerates the defendant. In cases where there are individual victims to the crime such as assault, theft or embezzlement, background checks are pertinent. This is to prove the credibility of the victim's accusations while consulting with experts in the various fields that crime can occur. After a criminal legal defense pre-file investigation results in sufficient counter evidential material, the attorney requests conference with the District Attorney to present the findings.
This presentation of evidence necessitates the prosecuting attorney to discuss case merits with defense. A district attorney can then either file the criminal charges against the defendant or terminate the investigation. Prosecution might also return the file to the investigating authorities such as the police or FBI for confirmation and augmentation of the testimonial or material evidence. Crimes such as embezzlement or fraud, otherwise known as white collar crimes under California criminal penal code 503, will attract a pre-file investigation.
The defense has a chance to begin formulating their strategy way before the actual criminal charges are filed through pre-arrest allocations. Though circumstances will differ depending on the crime a defendant is being accused of, the primary cause of legal action is to prepare and instigate the failure of charges being laid. A defendant undergoing pre-file investigation is the fore boarding feature of pending criminal charges.
The case which is then classified as open for pre-file is the initial stage of a county, state or federal criminal proceedings against a defendant. White collar crimes, in particular, require a lengthy pre-arrest investigation, and there are factors to be carefully considered by the defense during this period. A pre-filing defendant, with all the information furnishing their defense, has a better chance at getting charges not filed.
Can a Pre-File Investigation Reduce Criminal Charges?
A criminal charge expected to become a felony during the pre-trial investigation can be reduced to a misdemeanor. The defendant may be able to avoid court or jail time as there can be arrangements made by the defense attorney to address matters with investigators or the district attorney. The presumption that a pretrial investigation will not lead to charges is not true. Defendants undertaking such evasive action as destroying or erasing evidence will ultimately face more incriminating counts or extra charges.
The part a defendant plays from here on out may have dire consequences regarding the charges that are pending. The delay on the prosecutor's role in filing a charge against the defendant can be due to inadequate evidence or missing witness testimonies. The laying of charges has a statute of limitation that may extend up to 3 years for a felony, or one year for a misdemeanor in the state of California. Investigating agencies are sometimes mandated to inform a defendant that they are under review.
The Course of Action for a Defendant Facing Criminal Pre-Arrest
When a crime investigating agent subjects the suspected defendant to consolidate evidence, it’s always a better idea to plead the Fifth Amendment or retain an attorney. A criminal defense attorney who is competent in pre-arrest procedures and expectations can speak on your behalf, would-be defendants would find it crucial to hire an attorney to ensure the chances of the charges being dropped is increased. Other persons known to associate with a defendant may also be interrogated. With pre-file legal representation, however, all the material evidence and witness testimonies will be investigated and re-inspected, enabling the defense to have the upper hand from the onset.
After the notification that an individual is under criminal investigation authorities, a Los Angeles pre-trial ready defense lawyer will challenge every piece of incrimination that a defendant may face. An impending arrest can be avoided with the expedient legal help of a savvy pretrial lawyer who institutes motions with the District Attorney that challenge evidence. Relentlessly representing their pre-file client, an aggressive legal team, depending on the manner an investigation is launched against a defendant, will be ready to challenge the charges.
Role of a Pre-File Investigation Criminal Defense Attorney
Where authorities overstep their authority, a lawyer will be at hand to make sure that the process of investigation is formalized to the defendant's favor. Due to the information offered on pre-files and charges, the investigating agency such as the police may engender to get hold of evidence either directly or indirectly. A defendant may be subjected to covert operations that intrude privacy and can be challenged by a pre-file attorney. Some of these methods are illegal such as phone tapping and other undercover methods of surveillance.
The pre-file lawyer will find out more about the charges about to be instituted on a defendant; and will ensure that rights are not infringed upon during the collection of evidence. There are certain elements that a defense attorney needs to look for to effectively challenge the prosecution's case. The Los Angeles pretrial attorney will poke holes and refute all evidence presented against a defendant to generate doubt and defeat the aim to charge a defendant. With criminal and especially white-collar crimes such as embezzlement, the pre-file lawyer seeks to prove that;
- The evidence against the defendant at the time of the crime such as murder or rape is insufficient
- The defendant was not directly responsible for assets or finances that became defrauded or stolen
- There was no personal profit made by the defendant from proceeds of crime
- The defendant had no intention or motive to commit the crime
- There are vested interests in accusing persons or authorities against a defendant
- The prosecution's witnesses are unreliable and have a history of similar accusations
The moment the pre-file defense lawyer starts to dismantle these elements, the whole or part of the prosecution’s case may begin to crumble. State, county or federal prosecutors will not present evidence for a charge where they know that the defense already has an effective strategy against it.
Status of the Charges Facing a Pre-Arrest Defendant
Available options for the arresting authorities will include withdrawing from investigating the defendant who is released from the pre-file investigation when criminal charges are not filed. A criminal charge can either become a felony or a misdemeanor, and this is known as a wobbler offense. Since it can go either way depending on the elements of the investigation, authorities will use specific vague terms regarding status such as;
The phrase “case is under investigation” might be thrown around by the agents for the prosecution when the defense seeks information about the ongoing review or imminent arrest. This term, however, is not accurate as there are very few exceptions where the purpose and extent of the investigation cannot be discussed with the defense. Criminal defense attorneys can challenge any attempts to be vague regarding the case proceedings of a pre-arrest situation, ensuring that the defendant is kept well informed and abreast of the investigation.
At the District Attorney’s Office
The District Attorney scrutinizes any evidence presented by the prosecution seeking a charge to be laid against a defendant. A citation from the police will be made to the Deputy District Attorneys who then formulate whether an impending charge will be a felony or misdemeanor. Charges might also be dismissed in a couple of manners, one of which is called a DA's rejection. A criminal defense attorney approaches these prosecutors in the pre-file stage and requests to present motions against evidence to facilitate a reduction of charges.
A sensitive criminal matter such as that involving murder or grievous personal injury will take precedence at the district attorney's office. The investigating agencies need a well-profiled prosecution package containing a lawyer’s evidence, which they engender to collect. The term “case is at the district attorney's office” therefore means that depending on the urgency of the crime, or suspect in custody, the case file is lying at the prosecutor’s desk waiting for review.
No Charges Filed, Yet
During a pre-file investigation, a defendant looking to find out the status of their criminal proceedings will be told that no charges have been filed, yet. This may be interpreted to mean that the investigating authorities have not submitted their case files to the district attorney's office. It could also mean that they have, but the district attorney has not taken time to respond with a charge sheet.
The case could also have been sent for a follow up back to the investigators due to some factors. These include the lack of supplemental reports, witness testimonies, or interview notes that don't meet the legal requirements to file the charge. A competent prosecutor will not file a criminal charge against the defendant of a pre-file investigation unless they feel assured of victory.
Awaiting Development of New Evidence
All angles in the police reports are carefully analyzed and made to stand up to preliminary legal defense challenges before the submission of results in a charge. These may include any racial bias or the slightest infringement of defendants’ rights by the investigating agent or the manner of evidence collection that was employed. Clarifications and follow-ups are also sometimes requested of the authorities by the district attorney to substantiate the legally required case.
Since criminal cases will involve forensic investigations, agents will usually blame delays in laboratory results. Forensic expertise of crimes relating to murder, child abuse, sexual assault, and others may take up to a couple of months to be conclusively submitted. The defendant with no legal representation may be unable to pursue the matter further mainly because he or she is a suspect.
A pre-file criminal defense must be ready to follow up with the forensic investigators for speeded-up report submission. The pretrial lawyer also ascertains that these laboratory tests are well performed to remove the instance of hurried up and botched forensic results.
Defenses that Could Decline a Criminal Charge
Intent as Evidence
A case without sufficient evidence proving that a defendant had the intent to commit will be thrown out by a judge.
Under penal code section 484, 503, which establishes procedures for an embezzlement issue, for instance, proving criminal intent will show a tad inconvenient for the prosecution. When there is no longer any intent or motive towards the crime, a pre-file attorney can ask for the dismantling of investigation and any arrest processes against a defendant.
Duress under Pressure
Another good pre-file defense is where the defendant proves that they acted against their better judgment or had undue influence exerted on them to commit the crime. Threats of force or violence to make a defendant commit fraud, theft or embezzlement for example when proven by the pre-file defense or investigators, will lead to a case dismissal. Everyday life pressures, however, cannot be admitted as a duress defense.
Submit to the Grand Jury
If the impending criminal charges are going in the way of becoming a felony charge, there is the option of the grand jury in California, unless the defendant waives this right. The grand jury system is however sometimes very occupied due to the involving nature of cases that goes before it.
A defendant undergoing a pre-arrest investigation may have to be kept waiting while the decision to admit the forthcoming hearing to the grand jury is determined. The lower the level of charge, such as drug misdemeanors, will take weeks for their submission, and the defense lawyer pursues this to ensure a pre-file defendant gets due judicial diligence.
Decline the Charges
In the instance that the district attorney's office rejects the pre-file application to charge a defendant, the term used is that ‘the prosecution has declined to file formal charges'. As exhilarating as this information is, it’s not the same as a dismissal, and the defendant is not off the hook yet. The factors to consider at this point are;
- What the charges that had been filed and rejected had the potential for
- If the charges available can be amended and the charge made at a later time
Pre Arrest Process is Illegal
Various reasons can lead to the declining of charges by the prosecution, some having to do with the pre-file investigation itself. A Los Angeles district attorney may feel that the evidence cannot be proven beyond reasonable doubt, or a witness may be proving uncooperative. A criminal defense attorney for a pre-file defendant may also have pointed out the illegalities committed by authorities in the process of gathering evidence.
Warranting the Interest of Justice
The interest of justice is a consideration that prosecutors make, especially in politically motivated pre-file criminal proceedings. This means that the evidence presented does not warrant a charge to be laid against a pre-file defendant. New incriminating evidence can, however, turn the tide for a pre-file defendant in instituting another indictment against them.
Statute of limitations
A statute of limitations exists in the California Penal Code that adjusts the time a defendant can be under police or FBI investigations before charges are laid against them. These limitations vary depending on the type of crime that a pre-file defendant faces; for felonies being three years and two years for a misdemeanor. The district attorney is pressured to commit to the statute of limitations by a defense attorney who has established a great rapport with the prosecution office.
Dismiss Criminal Charges
The pre-file investigation defendant who doesn’t end up having criminal charges against them means they’ve been declined. This ultimate termination means the terms of the pre-file legal engagement are over, though a further review is necessary to inspect the dismissed charges. This is in the instance that future discoveries can revive the motion to prosecute by the investigating agency to the district attorney and the charges can be revived.
Why Hire A Pre-file Investigating Criminal Defense Lawyer?
A criminal defendant that is in the process of being investigated or prone to arrest must seek to know the status of the charges they may face. There can be mitigating factors to a proceeding pre-file of criminal charges, and the defendant cannot incriminate themselves by sharing information with the investigating authorities.
Even after a district attorney rejection on evidence failing to be resultant of a criminal charge, the defendant must be aware that future exposure or new developments can revive a pre-file investigation. Retaining an experienced criminal defense attorney will ensure that the whole pre-file process and results are favorable.
The lack of compelling evidence due to the circumstances of the crime pointing to a pre-file defendant's involvement or liability to the crime can be used as a defense. Investigating authorities that make submissions for a charge without conclusive evidence face a legal rebuttal at the district attorney's office. The prosecution's definition of insufficient is, however, broad and subjective to the type of criminal activity being investigated.
Strengths of a Prevailing Pre-File Investigation Process
The pre-file investigation also can uncover the instance a defendant is wrongly accused. A keen defense lawyer can spot irregularities in the manner of evidence and how it builds the impending case against a defendant. The attorney will then present this information to either the investigators or the prosecuting attorney.
The motion to dismiss an investigation against a criminal defendant is pertinent in cases where false accusation or evidence shedding doubt on the defendant’s involvement in the crime occurs. A pre-file investigation can also turn up evidence suggesting that the defendant could have unknowingly committed a crime in good faith. This is more common in white-collar crimes such as fraud and embezzlement, or in cases of an accident that leads to an injury.
The pre-file defense attorney argues that the defendant has diminished responsibility and that they were misguided in their professional capacities such as in a medical malpractice case. The findings of a pre-file investigation are vital in uncovering information and facts that may have been overlooked or ignored. The prosecuting district attorney might lay criminal charges against an unrepresented defendant for lack of these mitigating factors.