The short answer is as soon as possible. Why? In the words of Benjamin Franklin: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The earlier you seek and follow the advice of a criminal defense attorney; the less likely it is that you say or do something that will compromise your defense in the future. Often, when meeting with a client for the first time, we are able to educate them on the criminal process; both in court and with what law enforcement may be trying to do to gather evidence against you.

Case in point: recently the local fire chief for the Clearwater Fire Department, Jamie Geer, was arrested for the crime of Capital Sexual Battery. This crime carries a mandatory life sentence. In Florida life means life. Good bye. Thanks for playing. If convicted you are spending the remainder of your days in prison. It is alleged that Mr. Geer was having an ongoing sexual relationship with a girl under the age of 12 beginning in 2004. The alleged criminal activity was brought to the attention of law enforcement. Law enforcement began an investigation which included a controlled phone call (police have victim or witness contact suspect to make incriminating statements which are captured on tape). Now Mr. Geer is sitting in the Pinellas County Jail with a $500,000.00 bond, and the very real prospect of spending the remainder of his life in prison. Although I have no personal knowledge; I’m going to assume that Mr. Geer elected not to speak with an attorney before the police cuffed him and took him to jail.

Admittedly Mr. Geer’s case is an extreme example to illustrate the point. The vast majority of criminal cases do not end up with the suspect sitting in a jail cell facing life in prison. In Mr. Geer’s case, it is alleged the victim was taped on the phone asking him about their ongoing sexual relationship. During their conversation Mr. Geer made numerous comments that to him at that time may not have seemed incriminating. But to a criminal defense attorney, or a prosecutor; his statements may end up being the nail in his coffin. As his arrest warrant pointed out, Geer never denied having sex with the victim during the phone call. Those of us who practice criminal law call that an admission.

Could the advice of a criminal defense attorney have helped Mr. Geer avoid these charges? I think without question the answer is yes. I’m sure that if Mr. Geer thought that it was too expensive or too early to hire an attorney for this matter; his previous opinions have now changed.