What does a crime victim attorney do? Or a witness attorney? One common thread is that the lawyer is not representing a person currently charged with a crime.
Human rights in criminal law
Criminal Defense Lawyers are Human Rights Lawyers, protecting people from abuse by the government and its police force.
The power of early intervention
A witness or victim attorney can do the most good early on. We have more impact where a prosecutor has not yet prepared or filed a criminal Complaint. So the sooner in the process a witness or a police-target obtains legal counsel, the better it will be for them.
Experience on your side
Thomas C Gallagher has over three decades experience as a Minneapolis criminal lawyer, providing legal counsel and representation as a:
- Victim Attorney
- Witness Attorney
- Pre-Charge Investigations Attorney
- Grand Jury Witness Attorney
- Police Interrogation Counsel
- Immunity Lawyer
Have you heard news reports about witnesses being unwilling to call police or give a statement? And did you ever wonder why? Could merely being there — mere presence — be enough evidence for a prosecutor to accuse an innocent person?
Actual innocence has not been enough to prevent just this kind of injustice. After all, the United States has the highest per capita incarceration rate in the world.
Unfortunately, prosecutors sometimes charge persons who report crimes or give witness statements with a crime, even though innocent. Prosecutors sometimes even charge crime victims. So, you may need a victim attorney.
A person could have other reasons for not wanting to give a statement or cooperate with police. So one example of this can be the police investigation and criminal prosecution of a loved one.
Or, you could have concerns about immigration law consequences.
Though ancient, common law evidentiary privileges, like the spousal privilege, can provide some legal protection to the non-cooperating witness; a good witness attorney can help a witness assert his legal rights.
Does a witness have legal rights? Yes.
Like most legal rights, however, you must assert them. A good witness attorney can help shield you. So we can protect you from the tricks, lies and pressure that police sometimes use to get statements. And we can guard you against those methods prosecutors sometimes use to force “cooperation.”
Why a victim attorney?
A person hurt by a criminal act is a crime victim. But to call a witness “a victim” during a trial is unfairly prejudicial to the defendant. After all, the very reason for the trial is to test the prosecution evidence for reasonable doubt. And the victim label inherently presumes guilt.
The label is also troublesome because few us want to play the role of victim. And we have good reasons for that.
Yet, despite the labeling issues, prosecutors call complaining witnesses “victims.” But all too often, they are victims of the prosecutor. Why?
Because the “victim” often wants the charges dismissed, and the No Contact Order dropped. But the prosecutor won’t listen. Instead the prosecutor may threaten and manipulate the victim to secure “cooperation.”
When that happens, the witness may want to hire a victim attorney for protection. The victim attorney can help assert the witness’s rights. And Minnesota has a Victim’s Rights law. So your victim attorney can help you get your rights under that law.
Pre-Charge Investigations Attorney
Criminal lawyers advising people who are not facing criminal charges, but have a concern they might be, provide “pre-charge counsel.”
The goal of a pre-charge investigations attorney is to reduce the risk of criminal charges; and secondarily, to reduce or avoid the possibility of conviction if charged.
Past and future: In general, we do this in two ways.
We increase awareness of and compliance with the law in the present and future.
And, we avoid helping the government get evidence of past events via future searches, seizures and statements.
For example, what if they accuse you of a sex crime you did not commit. Police want a statement. So what should you do?
Retain a pre-charge investigations attorney, immediately, before making a decision that could cost you. And remember, the innocent have more to lose by talking to police.
Since victims sometimes face criminal charges, a victim attorney can help protect you during a police investigation.
People who have a pre-charge investigations attorney can reduce the chance of criminal charges, and improve future outcomes.
Grand Jury Witness Attorney
Most people are aware of what juries do in criminal jury trials. Juries decide the facts and apply the law consistent with their moral code.
The jurors act upon available evidence and their sense of right and wrong. We call that kind of jury a Petite Jury.
Originally intended to limit government power, a Grand Jury in modern times has become a tool of the prosecutor. The prosecutor uses the grand jury to subpoenae witnesses and evidence; and to request an Indictment charging a crime. But the Grand Jurors never hear from any defense witness, nor any defense lawyer.
A witness testifying to a Grand Jury to may later face criminal indictment as a result of their own testimony. That person may or may not have been assured that they were “not a target,” beforehand.
Do you have rights as a Grand Jury witness? Yes.
Seek help from a good criminal witness attorney as soon as possible, before testifying. And even a victim could face charges. So get help from a victim attorney. Protect your rights.
Target Letter from United States Attorney’s Office
A person may receive a “Target Letter” from the United States Attorney’s Office. The target letter lets them know that they are a target of a federal investigation. And usually this means no pending federal charges yet; but there soon will be.
These letters are short, and tend to raise more questions than answers for the recipient. What should a person do upon receiving such a letter? Retain a federal criminal defense lawyer like Thomas Gallagher for pre-charge investigations attorney representation.
The federal prosecutors may be open to negotiating prior to charging. This can sometimes be helpful for the “target” to explore, through their lawyer. Or, after thorough legal counsel, the “target” may choose to hunker down and prepare for what may come.
But either way, events usually move fast after a target-letter. So retaining a lawyer to help with it should be done immediately.
Police Interrogation Counsel
Do not lie. Do not say anything. A police officer, investigator, or government employee cannot compel you to answer questions in most situations.
Any statements or words you could give police today; you could provide at a later date, after consulting your lawyer.
If you refuse, what can they do about it? In the employment law context, there may be situations where refusal to answer questions could justify employee disciplinary action.
But in a criminal law context, you can refuse to answer. And you can refuse to answer, especially if any risk of their using it against you exists. Moreover, you have the right to have legal counsel present.
The reality is that most people do not know how their words could be used against them. And police exploit that ignorance. So even if police tell you that you are “just a witness,” it could be a trick. But a good witness attorney can protect you.
Even if you’re a crime victim, a victim attorney can help protect you.
A lawyer can help protect you in ways you would not otherwise understand until after it was too late.
A witness may assert their Fifth Amendment Privilege and refuse to testify. And if so, the prosecutor may respond with an offer of immunity.
But there are several different varieties of immunity, from weak to strong. Also – immunity granted in one jurisdiction is not binding upon another, e.g., international, federal, different states, tribal court.
A witness can assert their Fifth Amendment Privilege. And a witness can refuse to testify if they have any exposure to criminal prosecution, in any jurisdiction. This includes perjury or previous false statement charges.
And even crime victims can better do so with help from a victim attorney.
So a good criminal lawyer can help assert the witness’s rights. And we can help the witness avoid testifying, or get the best possible, most complete immunity.
Gallagher Criminal Defense can help you prevent and avoid trouble
Thomas Gallagher has represented many clients as a pre-charge investigations attorney, witness attorney, and as a victim attorney.
And he has since 1988 – including murder and serious felony cases in Minnesota.
Do you need a victim attorney?