If you want to throw away your chances for a successful outcome to your criminal charge, it really is easier than you think. Start by not hiring a lawyer, or not immediately insisting on your right to a lawyer. If you do hire a lawyer, just go ahead and ignore everything your attorney tells you. Do these two things, and you have gone a long way toward messing things up. However, if you really, really want to mess things up, the top way to lose your criminal case is almost too easy. It is so easy, in fact, that it is almost impossible for some defendants to keep from doing it. And this critical step can be done either before or after you hire a lawyer, although your attorney will do everything in his power to keep you from it. The number one way to lose your criminal case? 1. Talk about your case. That's right. Talk about it. Talk to police, talk to social workers, talk to your new buddies in the jail cell, talk to your friends, talk to your family, and talk to the victim. The more you talk, the more chances you have to really mess up any chances you have at a dismissal or acquittal. When you are placed under arrest, you will be read your rights, or the "Miranda warning." This informs you of your right to remain silent. In most versions of the Miranda warning, you will be told that "anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law"--not may be used against you, but will be used against you. It is important to know, however, that your right to silence begins immediately. Police are not required to read you your rights until after you are arrested, but they will question you before an arrest. Insist on your right to an attorney and tell police investigators that you will not answer any questions without your attorney present. You may think that you have nothing to hide, but your words can be easily manipulated to indicate guilt. The police are not typically looking for someone to exonerate; they are looking for someone to hold accountable. Do not talk to them without your attorney present. Unless, of course, you really want to lose your case. The police are not the only ones with whom you should refrain from discussing your case. You should not talk to anyone except your attorney about your case. Feeling camaraderie in jail? Wanting to be friendly when your new cellmate asks, "What are you in for?" Remember: he can be subpoenaed to testify about anything you tell him, and he may even like to use your jailhouse confession to try to negotiate a better plea deal for himself. Friends, family, and co-workers can also be called in as prosecution witnesses. If you have been accused and charged as a result of a misunderstanding, you may think that you can clear things up if you just talk to the alleged victim and explain what happened. This is a brutal mistake. First, talking to the victim will likely only exacerbate tensions and solidify the belief that you did something wrong. If the accuser is mad enough to notify police, he or she is not likely to just accept your explanation or your apology. Second, once the district attorney has filed charges against you, he is the only one who can drop those charges--it is not up to your accuser. Finally, in many cases, the defendant's communication with the alleged victim is prohibited by court order. This series has taken a tongue-in-cheek approach to discussing mistakes defendants make, but criminal defense is no laughing matter. If you have been charged with a crime, you need swift, thorough, and experienced legal representation. Even if you have already made the mistake of talking to police, a skillful defense lawyer may be able to mitigate the damages. Call an attorney now, and do not speak to anyone about your case until you have secured legal counsel.