Below is a list of 16 of the most commonly asked criminal defense questions
1. Can law enforcement legally stop and detain me without probable cause?
Legally, law enforcement can only approach you if they have reasonable suspicion. Probable cause means there is a clear indicator of a crime that’s occurred or is about to happen. Detaining a suspect must only be brief enough to perform an investigation, and the suspect will be released if there is insufficient probable cause to warrant an arrest.
2. The Police have pulled me over - what now?
When asked, provide your driver’s license, proof of registration, and insurance. Answer questions regarding your identity. Remain in your car unless instructed by the officer. Decline consent to search personal belongings. Sign traffic tickets.
3. Are search warrants legally required?
In most cases, a search warrant is required for law enforcement to search. However, there are some exceptions:
- First, contraband or criminal activity is evident in plain sight.
- An “incident to arrest” occurs.
- Emergency circumstances occur (an officer is in pursuit of a suspect who’s fled inside your home, or if someone inside a house is in danger, etc.)
- Fourth, you agree to consent to the search.
4. What is the “Plain View” exception to the warrant rule?
Without a warrant, any contraband within prominent sight may be seized by law enforcement, so long as their presence is lawful when the contraband is discovered.
5. Is property entrance allowed without permission?
A search warrant or consent is mandatory to enter a property unless emergency circumstances exist.
6. May I refuse consent to search?
Contact a reputable lawyer and assert your constitutional rights to remain silent to law enforcement. For example:
- “I wish to remain silent.”
- “I’m not answering any questions.”
- “I want to contact a lawyer.”
8. How should I handle my loved one being arrested?
Remain calm. Refrain from demanding details of the arrest/crime. Instead, determine the exact location of where you’re loved one is being held. Advise them of their right to remain silent. If bail has been established, find out the details of where and when it can be paid. Get in touch with an attorney to arrange a consultation with your loved one.
9. What happens immediately following an arrest?
Booking will occur at the police station once you are transported, recording your identity and arrest details. In addition, fingerprinting and photographing will be documented, and an officer will ask questions regarding current address, place of employment, and immigration status.
10. What is bail, and what are the different types?
In the legal system, bail regards the terms by which a suspect may be released from police custody. Different circumstances may dictate the type of bail you’re eligible for:
- Unsecured bond – Only a signature is required, or you are released on your recognizance (ROR). No cash deposit is required.
- Cash bond – Released is secured through a court-ordered financial deposit. It may be paid in full or as a partial percentage.
- Surety bond – Third-party signature is required. They may also be court-ordered to post collateral to secure release from custody.
- Real property bond – The home of you or a loved one may be used as collateral for your release from custody.
11. What determines bail?
The details regarding bail will be determined upon the court hearing or following the first appearance before a judge. To lessen the severity of the bail’s terms, your attorney will disclose facts in favor of your case, such as employment background and status, personal circumstances, financial and health hardships, and personal contributions to the community. Suspects who’ve committed serious crimes or who have been deemed a threat to themselves or society may be placed under “preventive pretrial detention” instead. It is also within the judge’s legal right to set a bail financially too costly for the defendant or their loved ones to pay off.
12. What conditions are most common with bail release?
Bail release usually involves conditions of varying lengths of time and severity. These may include:
- Travel restrictions
- Time curfew
- No alcohol or drug use, along with monitoring and testing
- Consent to random searches of you and your home
- Psychiatric testing and therapy
- No contact with witnesses or victims
- Electronic monitoring devices
13. If I can’t make bail, what happens?
Those who can’t afford bail will likely remain held in custody until their trial date. Your attorney may instead opt for a motion to reduce bail or make a court request to keep you confined to your home while wearing an electronic ankle monitoring bracelet.
14. What are the roles of police and prosecutors in a criminal case?
Law enforcement handles the investigation in a criminal case, while prosecutors try the case during court proceedings. First, law enforcement determines what types of evidence are available which would warrant charging a suspect with a crime, then conduct an arrest. Then, the prosecutor will present this evidence during the trial to the jury team.
15. What factors determine whether the prosecutor will file charges?
At the discretion of each legal case’s circumstances, formal charges are filed with several factors taken into consideration:
- The crimes severity
- The consequences victims face resulting from the crime, how many victims were impacted, and the possibility of restorative measures that can be conducted without criminal charges
- How compliant and cooperative victims and witnesses are after the crime
- The accuracy of witness credibility
- The presence of sufficient probable cause and the estimated success rate of a conviction
- The prior criminal history of the suspect and whether they are a danger to others or themselves
- The financial expense of pursuing charges through the legal process
16. Will charges be dropped if the victim chooses not to press them?
Dropped charges are not guaranteed. The prosecutor, not victims or witnesses, has the final say in whether charges will move forward or be dropped. This is likely to happen if the prosecutor is confident in proving the suspect’s guilt without the victim’s testimony.