Too many people make the mistake of assuming that requesting or demanding a D.C. criminal defense lawyer prior to being questioned by police is a red-flag for guilt -- or at least, that's how police would see it.
But here's the truth: Often, police investigators already have their theory in mind. It's an impossibly rare scenario that you'd be slick-tongued enough to talk them out of whatever views they already hold. So it's best to let someone else - someone experienced - do the talking for you.
This is true in every criminal case - whether you're actually guilty or not.
Lately, however, we have been hearing a lot from clients accused by police of hit-and-run in D.C. Barring proof of alcohol use or the death of a person (as in a recent fatal hit-and-run case on New York Avenue NW), you're looking at one of two charges: leaving after colliding - property damage (LAC-PD) or leaving after colliding - personal injury (LAC-PI). The primary difference in the two charges is whether someone else was injured. Depending on the severity, you could be looking at anywhere from a month to a year behind bars.
There are many reasons why someone may choose to flee. Often, it has to do with simple fear. These are usually people who have never been in trouble before, and they panic. In other cases, they may have been drinking. Or, they may honestly not realize what their obligations are, especially if no one was hurt (you're still supposed to stop and provide your information or call police if the property owner is not available).
What ends up happening is that the police find you. In other cases, they may receive a tip or have video surveillance of the incident. In these cases, the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department will issue a letter from their hit and run coordinator. This letter will ask you to come to the station for an interview. Or, officers may arrive at your door, requesting to talk.
Do not do this without a lawyer. Call us immediately. Don't ask any questions. Don't deny it. Don't admit it. Don't say anything before you speak with an attorney.
This is going to improve your chances of having the charges reduced or dismissed.
You're speaking with them is almost always only going to serve to supply the officers with more evidence - even if you never admit to being behind the wheel or hitting the other vehicle or property. Even answering seemingly benign questions such as where you work, what you were doing earlier in the day, do you have any medical conditions, etc., could be potentially damaging to your case. The reason is that officers may be able to effectively trap you into a certain storyline. As seasoned attorneys, we know how to answer - or not answer - questions in such a way that it will not serve to bolster their case against you.
You don't have to lie. In fact, this is a very bad idea because it harms any further credibility you may have.
Just let us do the talking.