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?
William Kroger: I had that happen last week. It was horrible because it was a client of mine who had some illegal drugs in their house, and they called the mother and said, “We're going to take your kids, but if you come in and give a statement to Department of Family Services, we're going to let you have your kids back.”She went in to give a statement, and as soon as she walked in the door they put handcuffs on her and arrested her. That was a pretty low one in my books.Always Contact Your Attorney Before Answering Police Questions
Interviewer: What do you do if a detective calls you and says,”Hey, we're not going to arrest you we want you to make a statement?” What do you do?
William Kroger: Call a lawyer. Usually, as a lawyer when that happens to a client and they call me; I'll call the police and say, “Is my client a target? Are you going to arrest them? What do you want to talk to them about? Are you investigating a case? Is he a witness?”
You've got to find out what they want from the person. Sometimes they'll just arrest them on the spot. I've had them arrest my client in court once when we went for a different hearing; they were there and they just arrested him for something else.Cooperating With the Police: Are You Just Providing Them With Evidence They use to Arrest You?
Interviewer: I would guess it's the fear of arrest that would make people cooperate with the police, believing that if they cooperate it'll be easier for them.The Police are Observing Your Body Language and Mannerisms While They are Questioning You
William Kroger: Right, and that's usually a problem because when the police start asking you questions, or questioning you, the questions they're asking you are not really the questions they're asking you. Instead, they're looking at you, they're reading your body language, and they're trying to determine if you're telling the truth.
They might ask you if sky is blue, but they really don't care if the sky is blue. They want to see how you answer their questions. It's more like a lie-detector test, so to speak, that they're giving you and then they follow up with questions that you don't suspect actually mean anything, but they do.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.Pleading Guilty: Can You Expect to Receive Mercy From Court?
Interviewer: What is your advice if you have a client that says, “Hey, I did it, they got me, I'm guilty, maybe I should just throw in the towel?”
Always Consult an Attorney—There May Be Issues with Your Case That Present Defenses
William Kroger: We tell them not to give up because sometimes there's a technicality or there's search issues we can work around. Then, also a lot of times we can go in there and we can negotiate with the District Attorney and we can try to negotiate the charges and keep them out of jail.
So we always tell clients not to give up, don't just throw in the towel. I don't think we've ever had a client just go in there and say guilty at the arraignment. We always like to go through the reports and utilize our investigators if we need to, to do some more work to investigate any victims, get statements and if there's a way to fight it we can try to fight it. There's no reason to throw in the towel.
Expecting Mercy from the Court
Interviewer: Is there such a thing as receiving “Mercy from the Court?” How do the courts tend to treat people?
Federal or State Court: You Can Expect Different Treatment in Different Courts
William Kroger: It all depends, there's federal court and then there's state court. State courts really hears so many more cases than federal courts. When you're dealing with the state court, you've got 10 or 15 even up to 20 cases before that judge every day. Many of the judges are ex-District Attorneys and some of them are ex-Public Defenders, and it seems that the ones that are ex-Public Defenders are less merciful than the District Attorneys.
I'm not really quite sure why that is; it might be because they've dealt with these people in the past, so they know what they're dealing with. But you have judges that do show mercy on people. If the attorney can show why the situation should be mitigated, they will.
Character Can Count towards More Favorable Treatment from the State and Federal Court
Whenever we have clients that are facing a substantial amount of time or any time actually, we'll go in there armed with letters and references from our client's families, friends and neighbors to show that the person is actually a good person and that they did just make a mistake. In that respect, we throw them on the mercy of the court and hopefully the judge or the District Attorney listens and they do. If they deserve a second chance, they usually will get one.
Interviewer: I didn't know that the courts cared.
In Federal Court, the Attorney Prepares Character References for His or Her Client in Writing; in State Court, the Information Is Primarily Presented Verbally
William Kroger: Yes they do. When it comes to federal court, it's much more thorough and intense because when you do sentencing in federal court you do have to put together a sentencing memorandum, which is basically your side of the story.
This includes why your client shouldn't go to jail for as long as the prosecution wants to give them and you tell the court all the good things about the client but it's all presented in writing. A lot of times that's the difference between state court and federal court. Federal court requires everything to be in writing, whereas in state court, they don't require it.
The federal court also gets a very lengthy and thorough probation report, so you can “throw yourself on the mercy” of the federal court as well through your writing of a good sentencing memorandums that will include background information and historical information about your client.