Being accused of a crime can be a stressful and frightening experience. From facing police intimidation to being judged by society, it can be difficult to know what to do.

But even in such difficult times, the last thing you want to do is admit to the crime or make mistakes that can impact your defense strategy. Instead, it would be best if you adequately prepare to defend yourself and minimize the negative impact the accusations may have on your life.

Here are five important steps to take if you have been accused of a crime.

1. Keep Calm and Do Not Say Anything

The law recognizes your right to remain silent when arrested for a crime. So, no matter how much pressure you receive from the police to make a statement, you should always exercise this right. Talking to law enforcers without legal counsel could be detrimental, as you could share information that can be used against you in a court of law.

A good rule of thumb is to politely decline to answer any questions from law enforcement until you have legal representation. Once an attorney is present, your statements will be protected by attorney-client privilege and cannot be admitted as evidence in court.

2. Hire an Expert Lawyer

The criminal legal system is very complicated. Unless you have experience handling criminal law cases, you should not try to represent yourself in court.

For the best chance at a favorable outcome, you should work with a criminal lawyer specializing in your case type. For example, if you have been accused of firearm possession, a gun offense attorney would be your ideal bet for the best outcome.

An experienced attorney will help you prepare your defense strategy, represent you in court, and provide emotional support throughout the process. If you’re found guilty, your attorney may also be able to negotiate a favorable sentence with the prosecution on your behalf.

3. Know Your Charges

When facing a criminal case, you must know the exact type of charges against you and their consequences. This will help your attorney prepare the best defense for your case and know what plea bargains to pursue.

Generally, criminal offenses are classified into felonies and misdemeanors. While felonies are more serious and carry severe penalties, misdemeanors are less severe offenses that attract lower penalties.

An excellent way to understand the criminal charges before you is by reading the formal charge sheet the officer gave you during the arrest.

4. Leave the Burden of Proof to the Prosecution

The burden of proof in criminal cases lies with the prosecution, not the defendant. This means the prosecution has to convince the jury that you are guilty beyond reasonable doubt by providing sufficient evidence.

Therefore, do not be tempted to apologize or provide explanations for your actions without first consulting with your attorney. Doing so may make you look guilty before the jury, negatively impacting your chance of a favorable judgment.

5. Gather Evidence and Witnesses

Your attorney may have an easier job defending you if you can provide evidence that clears you of the crime. Therefore, gather adequate details and witness statements that support your claims.

Don’t just rely on your memory. Instead, write down the sequence of all events leading up to the alleged incident. You should also collect any physical evidence, including any available surveillance videos and photos.

Additionally, if there were any witnesses at the scene of the crime willing to testify on your behalf, try to collect their contact information. This should include the witness’s name, phone number, and address. You may also request them to write statements confirming what they saw.