You're under criminal investigation. Now what?

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You're under criminal investigation.
Now what?

We're betting you have several urgent questions you want answered, which is why we created this page. Here you'll find simple and straightforward answers to the questions that really matter to you right now. Despite this, the best way to make sure all of your questions are answered is to simply pick up the phone and give us a call for a free confidential consultation.

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Common Pre-Filing Investigation Questions

The police want to hear my side of the story, should I talk to them?

No.  The police are trying to build a case against you.  Do not help them by talking.  This holds true even if you are 100% innocent.  It may seem counterintuitive, but even if you say something that you believe should "clear your name" as a suspect, your words could get turned around and be used against you. Talk to your lawyer, and that's it. 

Is it OK to confide in my friends and family about this investigation?

No.  It is very tempting to want want to confide in in family and friends. However, the problem is that if you do so and the police subsequently question them, they can end up using the statements you made to your family/friends against you over the course of their investigation.  Worse yet, if you get formally charged with a crime, your loved one can receive a subpoena to testify against you.  We realize from a practical standpoint that you may have already confided in a spouse, parent, or other loved one. If so, that's OK, but moving forward, it's best to simply speak to your attorney about the investigation, and that's it.

Are the cops going to just show up at my home or work and arrest me?

It's possible, yes.  It depends on a variety of factors including the type of offense you are being investigated for, the recency of the allegations, your presumed flight risk, your criminal history, etc.  It also depends on the particular detective and filing prosecutor assigned to the case and what their standard practices are.  One of the main things we attempt to accomplish when representing clients in the pre-filing investigation stage of a case is to speak with the detective ASAP to try to talk them out of an immediate and unannounced arrest, and rather just have your case submitted to the prosecutor's office for further review.  If an arrest cannot be avoided, we seek to arrange for a surrender at a particular date/time so you do not have to worry about the cops showing up at the door unannounced.

What can an attorney do at this stage to help?

There's a number of things we do on behalf of client's in the pre-filing investigation stage of a case.  First and foremost, if there is any information we can provide to law enforcement or the prosecutor that can help clear your name and avoid a filing altogether, then that is the best-case scenario.  While this doesn't happen in most cases, it does happen a handful of times in a given year, so it is always the first line of defense.  There are a number of individualized considerations that go into a pre-filing decision to not file charges, so we would need to speak with you in detail to explore this option.

In addition, we seek to open up a general line of communication with the police and/or the prosecutor's office.  We call and email them to let them know we are representing you and that all communication regarding the investigation needs to go through our office.  We follow-up to check on the status of the investigation and when/if the police will be sending the case to the prosecutor's office for review.

If the police and/or prosecutor's office is seeking a warrant for your arrest, we see if we can talk them out of an arrest in the pre-filing stage, and rather simply have a summons issued for an appearance in court.  However, If an arrest cannot be avoided, we seek to arrange for a surrender at a particular date/time so you do not have to worry about the cops showing up at the door unannounced.  When necessary, we can also recommend well-regarded bail bond companies to make arrangement for bail.

We also start gearing up and strategizing your overall defense at this stage.  In short, having an attorney by your side at the early stages of a case is the best way to ensure your rights are being protected from the start.

What fees do you charge for pre-filing services?

As with all of our retainers, we charge flat fees for pre-filing services.  The amount of the flat fee varies somewhat depending on a few factors.  We would be able to provide you with an exact quote after speaking to you.  Also, if your case does eventually get filed, the flat-fee we charge for pre-filing services gets applied as a partial down-payment for a subsequent pre-trial retainer with our firm.

How long do the police/prosecutors have to charge me with a crime?
It depends on what you are being investigated for.  The RCW entitled "Limitations of Actions," commonly referred to as the Statute of Limitations, outlines how long an investigation can drag on for.  If the statute of limitations expires and you have not been charged yet, you are in the clear.  The table below is not comprehensive, but it gives you an idea of typical limitations.
Type of CrimeStatute of Limitations
Simple Misdemeanor1 year
Gross Misdemeanor2 years
Most Felonies3 years
Certain Financial/Theft Crimes6 years
Rape reported within one year, Indecent Liberties, Arson. 10 years
Several sex crimes against minorsMay be prosecuted up to victim's 30th birthday
Murder, Vehicular Homicide, Homicide by Abuse, and the following crimes if death occurs: Vehicular Assault, Arson, Hit & Run, No limit
It is also very important to note that if there is any period of time that you do not live in Washington State, then the statute of limitations is "tolled," meaning it does not run.  For example, if you allegedly committed a felony in January of 2014 and then immediately moved out of state for three years and then moved back in January 2017, the statute does not start to run until January 2017.
The police asked me to take a polygraph. Should I?

No.  Polygraphs can be a very useful tool in the pre-filing investigation stage of a case, but do not do it at the police station.  Rather, consult with an attorney first, and if it's in your best interest to do a polygraph, we can refer you to take a private examination with highly regarded polygraph examiners.  Give us a call to get more details about how these tests work and whether you should take one.

Do I have to tell my employer that I'm being investigated?

For most jobs, you do not have to disclose the fact that you are under investigation for a crime.  At this point, you have not been formally accused of anything, so telling your employer could end up raising false alarms and needlessly put your job at risk.  Likewise, even if formal charges are filed, you still often do not have to report it to your job.  However, there are some exceptions to this, and if you're ever unsure about what your obligations are, you should make sure to review your employer's policy on this issue.  

What if I get arrested? What happens next?

You will be booked into a county or city jail (or a Federal Detention Center if it is a federal case).  Once there, you will be booked and processed.  What happens next depends on whether your case is already filed or not.  

Pre-Filing Arrest: You will see a judge within 72 hours to be heard on the issue of bail.  In King County, cases can be heard all week and on Saturdays, but not Sunday.

Post Filing Arrest: You will be given an arraignment date within a couple of weeks and will also have the opportunity to post bail prior to arraignment if you choose.

What are "investigation" calendar court appearances?

If you are under investigation and the police arrest you, you will be taken to jail.  The vast majority of the time you will not released or be able to post bail until you have seen a judge, which will happen within 72 hours.  Your first appearance in front of a judge is often referred to as the "investigation calendar."  This is where the judge will do two things:

  • He/She will review the initial police report, called the "probable cause" statement.  Based on this report alone, the judge will determine if there is enough evidence to keep the case going or if it should be dismissed.  Unfortunately, probable cause is a very low standard of evidence, so it is only rarely not found.
  • Assuming probable cause is found, arguments will then be made about bail and other release conditions.  From a defense standpoint, we will either be arguing for release on your own personal recognizance or a low bail.  Meanwhile, the prosecutor will often be asking for a substantially higher bail.  Ultimately it is up to the judge to decide.

After this hearing, you will either be released or remain in custody until your next hearing.  In King County, your next hearing is typically two days later.  If the prosecutor still hasn't decided to file charges by then, you will be released without any conditions.  If charges will be filed, then you will have an arraignment a couple of weeks later and whatever conditions of release that were set at your initial appearance.

How does the judge determine what my bail should be?

The judge looks at two main factors in determining bail: (1) Are you a flight risk? and (2) Are you a danger to the community?  Within these two main factors, there are a number of sub-factors for each.  For instance: What is the nature of the current charge? What sort of criminal history do you have? What sort of ties to the community do you have?  Give us a call for a full explanation of everything that is considered and to hear our proven strategy to get you released on you personal recognizance or to have bail set as low as possible.


I have a really high bail, can you get it reduced?

We can set a hearing to have bail reviewed.  While there are no guarantees that this will result in a lower bail, we have a great track record of getting high bails reduced and are confident that our strategies and expertise will give you the best possible chance of getting your bail lowered.

How do I pay bail?

You have two options: either pay the full amount of the bail in cash to the court, or use a bail bond agency.  When the bail is relatively low, it can sometimes make sense to pay the entire bail directly to the court as you get 100% of your money back at the conclusion of the case. On the other hand, if your bail is high, you will likely want to use a bail bond company.  Bail agencies typically charge and retain 10% of the total bond to get you out of jail.  However, with a private attorney, bail companies will write the bond at 8% as you are considered a lower risk of flight if you have hired a private attorney.  Of course, the higher the bail the more significant this discount becomes; on a $100,000 bail, you would pay $8,000 rather than $10,000.