What to Avoid If You Are Facing a Criminal Charge?
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 in Los Angeles 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 and 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 to 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.
Common Misconceptions about Criminal Charges:
Interviewer: So what are some of the top misconceptions people have about being arrested for a crime that you have to dispel when you speak to them?
The Accuracy of Police Reports
William Kroger: Most times I think the police are really honest and they're going to put everything down in the report. They portray it truly how it happened. If my client gives a statement, the statements are going to really reflect what they said, however, sometimes it doesn't.
There are times the police base their reports on other reports they've written, and they fill in the blanks. They've got to go down the line and make sure there is probable cause, that there's evidence, and there was a reason to talk to the person, or a reason to stop the person, a if the person allowed them to search the house.
Do You Agree with What Is Written in the Police Report?
There are instances where what the police indicate in the report will be fabricated, and once my client sees the report they say, “I never saw that. I didn't do that.”
Interviewer: So a large part of the time people are surprised at what's in the police report versus what they say actually happened?
William Kroger: Yes, that is correct.
Can the Police Mislead You? Can You Mislead the Police?
Interviewer: Are police allowed to lie to you by law, and are you allowed to lie to police?
William Kroger: No, you're not. They're not allowed to lie to you either. Rather than a legal issue, it's more of a moral, ethical issue, lying to people. I think people lie every day. My theory is that there are always three sides to a police report. There's the client's side, the police side and then what actually happened.
Oftentimes you're trying to figure out what the client is saying, what the police are saying, looking at the report and trying to figure out what really happened.
What If You Are Contacted by the Police?
Interviewer: Are your clients ever involved in scenarios where the police will call and say, “Hey, we're not going to arrest you, but we want you to come in and talk to us?” Is that common?
How Will You Know You Are the Subject of a Criminal Investigation?
Interviewer: How do most people find out that they are under a criminal investigation besides being arrested? Do they get calls from police?
Most Often, People That Are Suspected of Criminal Activity Are Arrested
William Kroger: They're usually picked up and arrested. If they're under investigation typically you don't know it until it's too late and they are arrested. Sometimes the police will reach out to you and say, “We want to talk to you about this or that,” but most of the times it's when you are arrested; either at home, or at work or driving.
Quite often, what they'll do is they'll pull you over when you're driving. If you're under investigation, under surveillance, they'll usually pull you over while you're driving and then they'll take you back to search the vehicle or whatever they need to do.