These people always seem to have some kind of special power over the criminal justice system – you hardly ever hear them getting into trouble. And if you do, their crimes disappear, or they are exonerated. Cynics would attribute this to their power and money, ensuring the best possible defense team. Some of the more sensational crimes stick in our memory – the OJ Simpson trial, Lindsay Lohan’s endless problems with substance abuse, and even petty crimes like Winona Ryder’s shoplifting. However, most of the time the crimes are much less dramatic when they affect athletes & entertainers. Nevertheless, a strong legal defense firm should be sought out, in addition to a good public relations team to control how the media portrays the criminal behavior.
Some of the most common crimes are tax evasion. Usually, celebrities will either not file their taxes, or not report a large amount of their income. The IRS will begin an audit if they suspect taxes are incorrect – it is not necessarily a criminal investigation yet. Seeking out an attorney at this stage will help you prepare a response for the audit and ensure that the case does not progress. Most of the time, these kinds of errors are unintentional and can be rectified by cooperating with the IRS. A good tax lawyer will be able to assist you in this realm before it turns criminal.
Some of the most serious and sensationalized crimes happen with athletes involved – most recently, with athletes in the NFL. Former Patriots player Aaron Hernandez was charged with murder in 2013. Ray Rice was charged with assault against his own wife in 2014. Zach Mettenberger of the Tennessee Titans pled guilty to a misdemeanor sexual battery in 2010, Adrian Peterson was accused of child abuse, and former golden boy of football Johnny Manziel has been charged with domestic violence most recently in 2016. There is no explanation for why the NFL appears to have such high levels of crime, particularly for domestic violence. However, most of these players can afford the best possible representation. By getting an attorney involved early on, these players do not have to speak to the police alone or at all. They can assert their 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination. Attorneys are also able to demand the evidence that the prosecution might use against them, and can demand what is called ‘exculpatory’ evidence – or evidence that might prove their innocence (or at least mitigate their guilt). Good local defense attorneys usually have a good working relationship with the prosecution, judge and the courtroom staff, enabling the process to continue smoothly, and negotiations to begin from day one. A good criminal attorney should also learn the NFL rules and regulations – even a guilty plea for a misdemeanor could affect the ability of a player to continue in the league, or his payment in the future. The criminal attorney should work closely with the athlete & entertainers’ agents and civil attorneys to ensure there are no contractual clauses concerning criminal convictions that will negatively impact their ability to earn a living.
No matter what crime you are charged with, find an attorney with experience with that particular crime. Physical criminal charges like assault, battery or murder will very likely need a different set of skills than tax evasion or even a DUI. Attorneys will be able to balance the risk of a lengthy, drawn-out trial for a finding of innocence versus a quick plea deal of guilt that could affect the ability of the celebrity or athlete to continue working. It is best to get them involved in your case as quickly as possible.