Cases You'll Need a Lawyer
Quite often on the news, you read about various arrest cases – whether or not they are justified. The fact remains that there is a possibility that you could get arrested any day; even if you did not commit a crime, or committed one, you knew nothing about. So, you might as well stay prepared.
The entire criminal process begins with an arrest and could end up with jail time, depending on the circumstances and facts behind the crime. The police may stop you for questioning moving you to a different location – it is not an arrest in this case. However, before you are stopped, the police officer should have a probable cause to believe that you have violated the law. For an arrest to be complete, it means you are no longer free to walk away from the police after being taken into custody.
When someone is arrested, there is a series of legal procedures that the police must follow in order not to abuse your legal and constitutional rights. Upon arrest, police are required to read a suspect their “Miranda Rights.” These rules were put into place by the U.S Supreme Court in 1996. Traffic violations are not subject to Miranda Rights. The rights were created to protect your Fifth Amendment right to “be free from self-incrimination.” They include:
- The right to remain silent and to refuse to answer questions.
- Anything you say could be used against you in a court of law.
- The right to consult an attorney before speaking to the police and to have an attorney present during questioning at any point.
- If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you before any questioning if you wish.
- If you decide to answer questions now without an attorney present, you will still have the right to stop responding at any time until you talk to an attorney.
The Arrest and Booking Process
Once the police stop you for an arrest, your outer clothing will be searched to confirm if you have any weapons on you. After the arrest, they will do a proper search of your person for any evidence of a crime such as possession of weapons, contraband, or stolen items.
The police may secure any money or personal property you may have after performing an inventory which you will have to sign; of course, if you agree with the contents of the inventory.
Once you are arrested, you’ll be booked. This is part where the police collect your basic information such as your date of birth, address, fingerprint, and photographs. You will be allowed to contact your attorney or lawyer as well as anyone else you want to inform about your situation.
There is usually a limited period within which you must be charged with a crime or released after getting arrested. If you have been held beyond this time, your attorney can obtain a “writ of habeas corpus” – an order issued by the court instructing the police to bring you before the court to determine if you should remain lawfully detained.
Right to an Attorney
Once arrested or accused of a crime, you have the right to retain an attorney. The U.S Constitution guarantees that a public attorney should be provided for you at the expense of the state, in a situation where you cannot afford one yourself.
When to Talk to your Attorney
You should speak to an attorney as soon as possible. Usually, you will be brought before a judge in a courthouse for arraignment where your attorney will advocate on your behalf. Here, the judge determines whether you can be released on bail or reprimanded in jail while you await your case to be resolved. Before arraignment, your attorney will need some time to review your case and gather information regarding your criminal history and community ties, to help him persuade the judge to release you on bail.
How Your Attorney Helps Defend Your Case
There are various ways by which your case can be resolved including trial, a plea bargain or dismissal. To help resolve the matter as quickly as possible, your attorney will investigate the case by consulting experts, interviewing witnesses, collecting and analyzing physical evidence with the help from investigators, as well as examining the prosecutor’s evidence against you.
When to Communicate with Your Attorney
Right after arraignment, you should meet with your attorney as soon as possible, and in a confidential place to discuss the charges against you and figure out ways to defend them. In a situation where you are not in custody, and you miss a mandatory court date that has been set during this period, the judge may issue a warrant to arrest you. You would be duly informed about court dates, hearings, and other procedures by your lawyer; likewise, if he or she has any plans to postpones the court dates.
Also, if your lawyer proposes a plea bargain, you can discuss with them the pros and cons of that option.
It is necessary to prepare yourself ahead of being arrested, even though no one looks forward to it. Knowing your rights will save you from making careless mistakes. Understanding the process involved from start to finish is sure worth the effort.