Criminal law is about determining culpability for wrongdoing and assigning punishment proportional to the crime. It differs from civil law in that the state itself (and not a wronged second party) pursues a judgment against the accused.
Even in the most ethically run businesses, employees can act criminally or make mistakes that violate criminal laws. In the regular course of business, a company may find itself charged with any number of white-collar crimes, such as (but not limited to) bribery, extortion, conspiracy, fraud, perjury or insider trading. As protection against these criminal law violations, you should:
1. Have one or more attorneys either on retainer or as in-house counsel to handle criminal law matters.
2. Educate staff (or at the very least managers) about any legal restrictions related to their work.
3. Provide a means for employees to come forward anonymously to report criminal behavior.
Be familiar with criminal lawsWhile criminal law information is the first step in deciding on a course of action, know that the law is a complex creature that derives its authority from multiple sources, including statutes and case law. No one should attempt to interpret the law without formal legal training. (Even lawyers hire other lawyers to advocate for them!) This does not mean you should remain in the dark.
Find the right criminal lawyerRetaining legal counsel, whether preemptively or in response to formal charges against you or your business, is one of the most important decisions you will make, so be sure you are searching with the best information. Your business's future may depend on it.
Prepare your business for the cost of criminal lawyer feesThe cost of a legal defense can be overwhelming, especially in a criminal case when the stakes are higher. If you're willing to keep a criminal defense attorney on retainer, perhaps you're willing to take a few more steps.
- Ask a prospective criminal lawyer for three things: references, the firm's brochure and promotional materials and a copy of the lawyer's retainer agreement. Talk with references, check out promotional materials and have the retainer agreement explained to you before committing to any one lawyer or firm. Also, don't forget to trust your own judgment and follow your instincts about the criminal defense lawyer you're dealing with.