If you’ve been contacted by law enforcement for information about a crime or have been charged with a crime, you may wonder whether you need a lawyer or can move forward alone. While do-it-yourself may work for projects around the house, a criminal case has serious ramifications, and hiring a lawyer is one of the best and most important decisions you will make.

Here is how a lawyer can help you from beginning to end.

Knowing your rights

Lawyers are legal experts, and having representation could save you from making legal mistakes that could hurt you throughout an investigation.

“Most people don’t think to engage a criminal defense lawyer while they’re being investigated by a law enforcement agency,” said Nicholas LaHood, a founding attorney at local firm LaHood Norton Law Group, in an interview. “First of all, you do not have to talk if you are contacted by a law enforcement agency or any governmental agency. You do not have to talk or give any information without counsel from a criminal defense lawyer.”

There is a difference between being a witness and being a target, and you may not know which one you are when law enforcement contacts you for information, LaHood said.

“It is our opinion that if you are even contacted, seek counsel by a criminal defense lawyer or firm before you engage or set up a meeting or talk or give any information about whatever situation they’re investigating,” LaHood said.

Reducing stress

If you are charged with a crime, no matter what it is, facing it alone is not only stressful but can have life-changing consequences.

“If you have found yourself on the wrong side of the law, up against the intimidating criminal justice system, you are probably feeling anxious and overwhelmed,” according to LaHood Norton, which specializes in criminal defense. “Whether this is your first run-in with the law or not, you have a lot at stake. Don’t jeopardize your future and your freedom.”

A lawyer fighting for you throughout an investigation and court proceedings will be a major stress reduction. A good lawyer can walk you through everything from paperwork to appeals, while giving frank advice and insights.

Additionally, hiring a lawyer early means that you have someone who will know the ins and outs of your case, give consistent counsel, and help you avoid common mistakes from the beginning.

Filing appeals

After you’ve gone through a trial, a court may rule against you, but you still have options.

“If you have been convicted of a crime in a Texas criminal court, legal options may be available to you for post-conviction relief, such as filing an appeal,” according to LaHood Norton. “Appeals can be complex matters and generally require an approach that differs from an initial criminal defense case. That is why it is in your best interest to consult with an attorney who understands the complexities and nuances of the appellate process.”

A lawyer will also offer advice on whether filing an appeal is a reasonable course of action. After all, the details of your situation, prior rulings, and even the judge and climate of the higher court can affect your chances of success. These are all issues a lawyer will be familiar with.

Whether you’ve been charged with a crime or contacted by law enforcement for information, you can reach out to the seasoned lawyers at LaHood Norton.