At Dysart Willis, our attorneys are equipped to handle any type of criminal charge in state and federal courts. Whether it involves vehicular death, drug issues, sexual offense allegations, computer crimes, or corporate misconduct, we have represented clients throughout North Carolina. In fact, our firm is often contacted by civil attorneys with unique criminal issues  that have unexpectedly come up within their civil representation. For attorneys who lack significant experience navigating criminal codes and sentencing guidelines, or do not have relationships with prosecutors and law enforcement agencies, it can be daunting to advise a civil client of any potential criminal exposure. 

For that reason, Dysart Willis routinely comes alongside civil law firms either in a consultant role or to provide representation for issues related to criminal exposure. The same way an expert might be called in to help with a specific area of civil litigation, the ability to rely on an attorney with a wealth of criminal law experience can help avoid pitfalls that could increase civil liability or even result in criminal prosecution. Both the client and the civil attorney gain significant peace of mind by involving an experienced criminal attorney to advise when criminal issues arise.

In some instances, the worry of potential criminal charges in an otherwise civil case may be overblown. There is value in our attorneys investigating and preparing an advisory memo outlining the potential risks based on our experience defending criminal cases. In other situations, the possibility of criminal charges is very real and an experienced criminal defense attorney becomes immediately necessary.  Dysart Willis regularly fields the following questions from civil attorneys:

The lawsuit alleges that my client engaged in criminal conduct or makes false allegations. Will he or she be charged criminally?

It depends. We have seen instances where allegations of illegal conduct carried little risk of criminal investigation or prosecution. In other situations, civil counsel would be wise to take the threat seriously. Especially without a frame of reference for the factual scenarios that law enforcement and prosecutors commonly charge, it can be hard for a lawyer who does not practice in this area to accurately identify the risk. Be advised that in North Carolina, there is no statute of limitations for felony charges. The credibility of criminal allegations are going to be reviewed by law enforcement and/or a prosecutor. Having a criminal attorney as part of the litigation team to be part of that review process can be influential.  

What should my civil client do at a deposition when there is potential criminal exposure?

Our firm has helped identify when a civil litigant could potentially face criminal charges and helped prepare a strategy for depositions and trial.  Often, it becomes necessary to advise a client when and how to properly exercise their Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination. In other instances, communicating with prosecutors or investigators in an effort to avoid or contain criminal charges may be required. 

What if the response to a criminal problem jeopardizes the civil case?

This may be the number one reason to involve a criminal attorney who can help assess the specific risks of the potential criminal exposure. It is only with the most information that an informed decision about how to handle the case with the client’s best interest in mind. With attorneys who previously worked at traditional civil defense law firms representing individuals, businesses, and insurance companies, we know the unique interplay between the civil and criminal arenas. Our attorneys are sensitive to avoid needlessly interfering with the ongoing representation or relationship with the client. Our only goal is to deliver high quality representation that assists the client obtain the best possible result. 

Whatever the situation, it is advantageous to involve a criminal attorney to help advise and defend when criminal issues arise in a civil case. While limiting liability and damages are generally the goal when defending civil cases, the worst case scenario is to unintentionally put a client in a position where they have been criminally charged and face the possibility of prison time. Let Dysart Willis help ensure that your client’s legal interests are protected on all fronts. Call our office today to discuss how we can help.

We are pleased to announce that DYSART WILLIS is joining MAYNARD NEXSEN. As we combine firms, we are expanding our capabilities & reach to 24 offices across the country. Read our announcement here & learn more about Maynard Nexsen at MAYNARDNEXSEN.COM