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Being accused of a crime can be a frightening experience. When we are stressed or frightened, we’re most in danger of making mistakes or operating under poor judgment—especially during the first 24 hours when we’re most in shock about the situation and least sure of the potential outcomes.

Rather than panic, it’s essential for you to stay calm and think clearly during the first few days after being accused of a crime.

These are a few things you should do immediately after formally being accused of a crime:

1. Contact a lawyer. A legal team can help you navigate the judicial system, make clear-headed decisions about your situation, and help you understand your rights. A good legal team will stand behind you throughout the entire legal process, fighting for your rights and ensuring that you have the best defense possible.

2. Gather physical evidence related to the event. Collect anything related to the event in question as well as anything that you believe could help prove your innocence. Items to collect might include clothing, shoes, photographs, and videos. Each situation is unique, so you’ll have to use your best judgment. But even more importantly, do not destroy anything that you think may work against you if your case should go to court. Destroying potential evidence will actually work against you as it adds an unnecessary element of suspicion.

3. Collect documents and records related to the incident. If you have anything that could show that you were somewhere other than the scene of the crime, or legal or financial records that could help prove that you were not involved in the event, set those aside in a safe place. Documents could include letters, emails, financial records, legal documents, phone records, business documents, or GPS records. Again, each situation is unique, so if you think a document could be useful, set it aside and your legal team can help determine its value at a later date.

4. Write down what you remember. Your memory is best immediately after an event, so this is the perfect time to write down everything you remember about the incident. Make notes about the scene, witnesses, events, and anything of significance.

5. Witnesses are key. Make a list of anyone you know to have been at the scene of the event or who would have information about the incident. At this point, don’t worry about which side the witnesses may take, simply make a note of anyone you think might have information about the accusation or incident.

6. Avoid talking to your accuser. If at all possible, do not interact with the person accusing you of the crime or with any of the potential witnesses.

7. Don’t offer any information to law enforcement before engaging with a lawyer. Protect your rights by requesting a lawyer be present when you speak to law enforcement. You lawyer will alert you to questions that you legally are not required to answer.

8. Similarly, don’t submit to any testing before consulting a legal team. Consult legal council before you submit to a DNA test of give any kind of physical evidence, even if you believe you will benefit from the test.

If you or someone you know has been accused of a crime in Kentucky, call our office for a consultation. We can help you handle this difficult situation and make sure your rights are protected in the process.