Self-Representation, Public Defenders and Private Attorneys: Which Option Is Best for Your Case?
Interviewer: What are some of the unintentional mistakes that you see people make, that make their case worse than it would have been?
Criminal Charges Can Result from Seemingly Inconsequential Actions, Such as a Minor Traffic Infraction
William Kroger: Let's say somebody is driving and the police pull them over. The officers will say, “Do you have anything illegal in your car?” They'll say, “Yes, I have some marijuana; but I have a prescription for it.” If somebody is transporting some marijuana or some other drugs, they may get pulled over and they'll have a suspended license that they forgot about or they'll get into an accident and leave their car.
People face problems from actions that seem inconsequential, like a minor traffic infraction but those actions can have larger consequences when drugs are involved.
A Thoughtless Action on Your Part Can Result in Providing the Police with Probable Cause
With people that are involved in large-scale marijuana groves, it will be thoughtless things, such as they'll forget to change the filters on the fans and the marijuana will just begin to smell. The neighbors will smell it and call the police. In fact, I've had the police actually drive by marijuana grove and smell it from outside because they forgot to use their ventilation system.
But this provides the police with probable cause to enter.
Talking to the Police: The Police Are Skilled at Asking Questions That Elicit Incriminating Answers
Interviewer: So it seems that people get careless. How about in terms of interacting with police? Do you find that people talk to them too much; they want to be helpful and tell them their story?
William Kroger: The police are very good at making you believe that they're your friends—which they're really not. They're there to help, protect and serve, but when they see you as a criminal and breaking the law, it kind of flips a switch in their mind from you being an innocent person to somebody who's guilty.
If the Police Suspect You Have Committed a Crime, Their Job Is to Solidify Their Case against You
Their job then becomes do whatever they can do to solidify their case and make sure that when they present it to the District Attorney's office. They'll also make sure that there's enough in their report that they can convict you. So, quite often, people talk too much to the police. Almost anytime you talk to the police you tend to say too much.
Retaining an Attorney: What to Look for and What to Avoid
Interviewer: If you were charged with a crime, especially one that you tend to deal with, what would you look for when hiring an attorney in Los Angeles and how would you know that you found a good one? What qualities would you look for and what would you avoid?
When Hiring an Attorney in Los Angeles, Look for One That Specializes in the Defense of the Crime of Which You Are Accused
William Kroger: I'd want to hire somebody who knows that area of law. If I was charged with a drug crime I wouldn't go to a criminal attorney that handles murder cases. I'd also want an attorney that is familiar with a courtroom. You would be surprised at how many lawyers who have never even stepped foot in court, so you definitely would want somebody who's been in court, who's been in front of that judge and who probably knows the district attorney.
Has the Attorney Practiced in the Court That's Hearing Your Case?
When I say know the district attorney, I don't mean that they go out to dinner or they play golf together, I mean he's been in that court and had interaction with them and is comfortable with them. This is because going into court as an attorney, one of the things that contributes to success is being comfortable in a court. Knowing the people in that court is a key.
I'd want to hire somebody who knows the court, who knows the law, and who's going to return my calls and let me know what's going on in the case.
Is Retaining an Attorney to Your Advantage When You Are Facing Criminal Charges?
Interviewer: I know you can't give percentages, but how often because of your involvement does someone end up better off than they would have been without you?
Mitigation: Hiring an Attorney in Los Angeles Can Almost Always Improve the Situation
William Kroger: Pretty much every day, I would say are clients are better off with our involvement. For instance, I had a case, yesterday where my client was charged with a small amount of drugs, but he had a handgun on him so they were going to charge him with a handgun allegation.
The case was pretty clear. He was caught. They had probable cause. They waited, picked him up. It was legal, but he had the gun. If he didn't have the gun he'd be eligible for a drug program and a then the case would ultimately come off his record. I was able to reach out to people I know and talk to prosecution and get them to agree to dismiss the gun charge and let him plead to a drug program on just the drug charges.
We do that on a daily basis.
Alternative Punishments in California Include House Arrest and Drug Treatment Programs
Interviewer: Are there alternative punishments to jail?
William Kroger: There are many alternatives. We had a client put on house arrest this week. There are halfway houses, drug programs, and there are weekends only in jail; there are a lot of alternatives that are available.
But you have to know them and you have to know how to ask for them.