Helpful Legal Tips/Info
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Dealing with Police & Searches
First off, keep in mind that when you encounter Police they are at work. They have good days and bad days just like the rest of us, and they deal with some difficult characters. Being reasonably cooperative and polite will go a long way. With that said, also keep the following in mind: Police are trained to uncover evidence to use against you. When dealing with Police who want to search you without probable cause, they will try to persuade you to consent to the search. You will almost always be charged with any contraband you give up or that they find. Police are trained to gain your trust and consent in these situations. This persuasion for your consent without probable cause is completely legitimate Police technique. Most people feel like they look guilty if they deny a search, but regardless of how nervous or guilty you seem, the search cannot go on without real probable cause or your consent. Your home is more protected from unwarranted searches than your car out on the roadways. If you carry or use drugs in the car, not only is drugged driving dangerous, but you can be guaranteed the drugs can be smelled in traffic stops and this grants probable cause for a full search. I see this all the time in car searches with marijuana because of its often pungent odor.
*Condensed tip on searches: If police are asking for permission to search or look around, they probably have no authority to do so. If probable cause or a warrant exists, you'll not be asked for permission. Whether or not you get searched at this point is solely up to you. Just because you are nervous or it makes you seem guilty to deny permission for a search, doesn't change your right to deny the search and go about your way after the stop or contact is finished. Remember your privacy is GREATLY reduced when out in your automobile.
Talking to Police
Police often perform what is referred to as "voluntary contacts." This is where they will approach you and possibly ask for ID, try to gather information, ask to do a frisk for safety, or maybe even ask about any illegal substances on you. At this point, if you aren't under suspicion, you can politely ask if you are free to go, and you also don't have any obligation to comply with the questioning. Unless you are driving a vehicle on the road, you don't even need to produce an ID. You will have to be "mirandized" (read your rights) before you are questioned in detention (no freedom to leave). This doesn't always have to be in handcuffs. If reasonable suspicion of a crime in progress exists, detainment and frisking for weapons can become fair game. If you voluntarily give up information during any detainment or contact, it might be used against you regardless of whether your rights have been read. Short and reasonable periods of Police detainment for various investigative or traffic related reasons are permitted. It just depends on how long and reasonable the detainment is under the circumstances. A good way to tell if you are being detained is to ask, "Am I under suspicion?" Or "Am I being detained against my will? Because if not I'd like to be on my way." If the answer is yes, you would be best served to remain silent until you can speak with your attorney. A common exception to having your rights read in detention is if you are arrested on a warrant and the police have no need to question you about any issues. The outstanding warrant makes the arrest good so there is no need to gather evidence.
*Condensed tip on talking to Police: If you are under arrest or about to be placed under arrest, talking yourself out of it will probably not work. In fact, you may talk yourself into more trouble. Your best bet is to comply politely and wait for your attorney to talk about the situation. At any time when you are being questioned all you need do is request an attorney before you speak any further, and the law will require officers to stop questioning at that point. Any information you offer voluntarily is fair game and will be used against you. Remember, Police are under no serious obligation to inform you of your Sixth Amendment right to counsel or the legal particulars of Miranda detention and questioning, even if they are aware of such legal rules.
*Disclaimer: Under no circumstances should this information be regarded legal advice for your particular case. This information forms no attorney client relationship. It would take volumes to fairly discuss the constitutional issues regarding search/seizure/detention/right to counsel. Attorneys and scholars spend years studying these issues. These are only condensed tips and you should discuss your situation with an Attorney as outcomes shift quickly based on often small factual differences in situations. Outcomes in these cases are ever evolving.
Tips for Court
Show up for court on time. Be there early and don't miss your date. It is not worth the complications and you could end up in more trouble than to begin with. Also, dress as nicely as possible. If you don't have dress clothes and If you can afford it, dress clothes may be worth purchasing for your court day to help show that you take seriously the process. Court is not a fun place to visit, and sometimes it seems like an unfair place to many people. But keep in mind it is a formal place where the deputies, attorneys, and judges are dealing with often difficult people and difficult issues on a daily basis. Checking your frustrations with the system at the courthouse door and being ready to give full respect to the process is greatly helpful, and will make the experience as easy as possible.