When to hire a criminal lawyer? 5 decisive questions

by | Aug 18, 2022 | Publications

We know that the answer to the question of when to hire a criminal lawyer is not always obvious, there are multiple factors to consider when making the decision, which will allow you to go beyond the emotion and focus on what is important. In Jose Maria Castillo y Asociados we consider that there are two main reasons to hire the advice and/or defense of a criminal lawyer in Panama and below you will find them. Join us!

5 Questions to Decide When to Hire a Criminal Lawyer

Here are some questions that allow you to evaluate your need and decision to hire a criminal lawyer:

  1. Is your decision to hire a criminal defense lawyer emotional because of a situation that puts you in an uncomfortable position or your lack of knowledge of the law really put you or your company at a disadvantage?
  2. Do you feel that your rights have been affected and thereby caused harm to you and/or the organization you lead? Are you a victim of a crime?
  3. Do you know that the business, contract or transaction that you or your company is carrying out is complex and requires a study of legal risks to avoid losing money?
  4. Do you feel that you are being persecuted by your political opponents and by the media, with accusations of your management? Or do you want to prevent this from happening with decisions you will make in the future by virtue of your position?
  5. Have you been sued, denounced, or linked to a criminal investigation?

If your answer has been “yes” in any of the above questions or in those previously formulated in our blog article What is a criminal lawyer and what does he do?  your situation is one of the two main reasons to hire a lawyer. In the following sections we present them in detail.

1. Prevent and mitigate risks through advice.

Why? As the saying goes, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Individual and/or legal entities that want to strengthen their level of legal certainty, and thus shield themselves against any risk, or those who, due to the nature of their daily activities, face situations that may generate violations of criminal laws hire criminal lawyers to perform out an evaluation of the possible punishable acts that may occur in the operations they perform.

In this way, the criminal lawyer must evaluate each scenario, for example in the case of advising companies and according to the activity carried out by the company, the following elements can be considered:

  1. The shareholder composition, share book, minute book, legal contracting of the directors of the legal entity and other legal instruments, to be analyzed in order to comply with the measures that give the client the tools to contribute to the prevention of crimes of money laundering, financing of terrorism and any other illicit activity in accordance with the laws of the Republic of Panama,  as well as to comply with the obligations established in the international treaties or conventions ratified by the Republic of Panama.
  2. Review of civil and commercial obligations in order to determine compliance with the obligations contracted towards third parties and whether these third parties are complying with theirs, with special attention to the prevention of crimes against the economic patrimony.
  3. Review of the obligations acquired with the State and its public entities with special attention to the prevention of crimes against the public administration.
  4. Review of the administrative permits required for the development of the activity that the company is dedicated to in order to avoid administrative fines or possible criminal investigations for omissions or imperfect compliance.
  5. Review of the advertising material offered and its evaluation according to the above in order to prevent conflicts with the consumer and crimes against honor.
  6. Review of the administrative records of trademarks and patents with special attention to the prevention of crimes against copyright and industrial property.
  7. Analyze the chain of responsibilities according to the organizational chart in order to determine the level of responsibility and hierarchy of the decisions taken in the company to foresee conflicting scenarios that may be considered, with special attention to the prevention of crimes against freedom, against economic heritage, against public faith and against the economic order.
  8. The inspection of the physical facilities where the work is performed will depend on the industry to which it is dedicated since experts may be necessary to carry out preventive reports such as security, compliance with special regulations of the activity, computer security among others; with special attention to the prevention of crimes against life and personal integrity,  against the legal security of electronic means, against collective security, against the environment and territorial planning among others.

2. Need for defense and accompaniment in a criminal conflict.

Why?, because you have the right to be assisted by a professional in your criminal cases and that it be this specialist who ensures your rights within the process and in the exercise of his function manages to mitigate the violations that may be committed to your prejudice or that of your organization.

The criminal procedural reaction or defense can be originated in one of the following two ways, or it is also possible in both ways at the same time:

1. When you, a family member or your company are victim of a punishable act.

When an act committed has caused you damage and/or harm and this falls within the conduct classified as crimes, established in the Criminal Code of Panama, you automatically become a victim within the criminal jurisdictional level.

It will require the assistance of a criminal lawyer who can defend it, beginning with the presentation of a criminal complaint or lawsuit that complies with the assumptions of law and that is duly accompanied by the first elements of conviction in order to activate the criminal process, follow up on the investigative activities and to echo the need for the criminal punishment of the events that occurred against them,  as well as to ensure that compensation is obtained.

2. When you, a family member or your organization is sued, denounced or a criminal case has been opened for an alleged punishable act.

You will require the assistance of a criminal lawyer who can defend your constitutional and criminal procedural rights within the process, ensuring the correct application of the rules and the correct obtaining of the elements of conviction against you, as well as the presentation of elements of conviction that are favorable within the criminal process.

The development of a criminal investigation or criminal proceeding against you is subject to minimum compliance with the following principles, which your criminal lawyer must monitor at all times:

(a) Procedural legality.

(b) Natural judge.

(c) Separation of duties.

(d) Independence and impartiality.

(e) Prohibition of double judgement.

(f) Innocence.

(g) Publicity of the process.

(h) Right to defense.

(i) Personal freedoms.

(j) Judicial control of the violation of fundamental rights.

(k) Right to privacy.

(l) Respect for human rights.

(m) Justice in a reasonable time.

(n) Right not to testify against oneself.

(o) Validity of the test.

(p) Loyalty and good faith.

(q) Procedural equality of the parties.

(r) Protection of the victim, complainants and collaborators.

(s) Interpretation.

(t) Motivations.

(u) Challenge.

(v) Objective research.

(w) Judicial control of the sentence.

(x) Conflict resolution.

(y) Gratuity.

(z) Cultural diversity.

To summarize, when should you hire a criminal defense attorney? The answer is that you can never say “too soon.” The sooner you can have an attorney you trust, the better your chances of avoiding a lengthy legal battle that will wear you down, your family, and/or your business.

If you want to know how to validate your lawyer’s registration number, if you are authorized as a lawyer in Panama to exercise your defense, enter the Lawyer Suitability Consultation and verify the information before hiring.