Q. When should a person call or hire an attorney?
A. When you become aware that the police are looking for or investigating you, or if you believe that you may have committed a crime — The sooner, the better. An attorney can contact the police and in some cases prevent an arrest. If you are going to be arrested, arrangements can be made for you to turn yourself into the authorities at a time and place more convenient to you and your family. Having a lawyer also prevents the police from questioning you.
Q. If I am innocent, why do I need a lawyer?
A. Innocent people get accused, arrested, and convicted of crimes. In the United States, whether you are innocent or guilty of committing a crime, you have a right to remain silent at all times. Even if you have nothing to hide, it is always better to have a lawyer learn about your situation and speak on your behalf.
You should never try to represent yourself in court, especially when the charge can carry substantial penalties if you lose your case. It is strongly recommended that you use a Board Certified Criminal Defense Lawyer.
Q. What should I do if the police want to question or arrest me?
A. Always be polite and cooperative. Arguing or struggling, even if you didn't do anything wrong, will never make the situation better. Don't say anything to the police except your name and other identifying information. Do not discuss the situation with the police. Many convictions result from statements made to the police. Whether the officer speaking to you is nasty or nice, he or she is looking for evidence that can be used against you. The police sometimes will attempt to lie or trick you to get you to talk. You should tell the police that you want to speak to a lawyer and that you do not want to speak to them until you have spoken to a lawyer.
Q. What should a person expect if he or she is arrested?
A. If you have never been arrested before, this is very likely to be the scariest time in your life. A good criminal defense attorney can guide you through each step of the process and can help you defend the charge(s) you are facing.
You will first want to contact a Board Certified Criminal Defense Attorney to help you get out of jail so that you can focus on your defense more clearly. You will be brought to the police station and "booked." This procedure will include fingerprinting and photographing and obtaining your biographical information. You will be able to make a telephone call (make it either to a lawyer or a family member who can call a lawyer and who has the funds necessary to come bail you out). Depending on the crime with which you have been charged, a bail commissioner should be able to look at your criminal record, if any, and release you from the police station. He or she will require a nominal fee (usually $40) and sometimes will set a bail amount. Once the bail is received by the bail commissioner, you should be released. You must appear in Court at the time and date told to you by the commissioner and written on your "Recognizance Form."
Q. What is bail?
A. Bail is money (sometimes other property) that is held by the Court to ensure that the person accused will return to court when he or she is required to do so. So long as the person returns to court as required, the bail will be returned at the end of the case, even if the person is ultimately found guilty and goes to jail. However, if the person does not show up for court, the bail may be forfeited and cannot be returned.
Q. Does the suspect have to put up his own bail?
A. No. Anyone can post the suspect's bail. However, the person posting bail must know that if the suspect fails to show up to court, the money could be forfeited.
Q. Does the money have to be cash or can it be by bond or surety?
A. Bail bond or surety is a promise to pay the amount of the bail if the person does not return to court when required to do so. Only a licensed bail bondsman can post a bond or surety with the court. Bondsmen are private business people who will charge a fee to post the bond and will usually require some type of collateral, such as cash or property, to secure the bond. At the end of the case, assuming the suspect has shown up for court as required, the bond will be released and the collateral will be returned.
Q. If I am stopped while driving and the police officer asks me to do field sobriety tests do I have to do them?
A. The police have an absolute right to ask you to perform the tests. You have a right not to take them. If you take them the results will be used against you in court. However, if you don't perform the tests, your refusal cannot be introduced at trial. In addition, there are no legal consequences for your failure to do the tests, i.e., you don't have your driver's license taken away from you.
Q. Should I take a breathalyzer test if I am arrested?
A. By obtaining a driver's license, you have consented to take the breathalyzer. Therefore, if you refuse to take the breathalyzer, your driver's license will be taken away for at least one hundred and eighty days. However, breath test machines are not perfect and are very often inaccurate. They were not designed to measure someone's blood alcohol and if you blow a .08 or more, this evidence will be very damaging against you at trial. A couple of drinks can register as a .08, so be extremely cautious before deciding to take a breathalyzer.