Understanding legal procedures such as appeals and post-conviction remedies can be overwhelming and complex, especially when you or a loved one are involved.
Is It Advisable To Hire An Attorney Prior To An Arrest?
My unequivocal advice to people is to hire an attorney as soon as possible. There are so many traps that can really put you in a much worse position than you otherwise would have been. An experienced criminal defense lawyer is invaluable from the beginning, even if you have not yet been charged. Oftentimes people will call me and say, “A police detective called me and said that they want me to come down to the station for questioning. What should I do?” Those are my favorite cases, because the earlier I can get involved and help steer somebody through the minefield of a criminal investigation, the better the results are for my clients. Some people feel that they have a specific duty to answer a police officer’s questions, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Police officers literally take a course at the police academy on how to interrogate people. The point of that course is to learn how to make people confess. The fact of the matter is that confessions are, in my humble opinion, the single strongest piece of evidence against somebody. That’s because jurors think, “Why would you lie about that?” Lawyers, judges and prosecutors know that the police often lie to people about the consequences and benefits of talking about the crime, which can result in false confessions. Or, the police sometimes give an incorrect definition of, for example, “possession,” causing people to think that they are guilty of something based upon a misunderstanding of the law. But the fact of the matter is that under the Fifth Amendment, you are absolutely protected and you do not have to speak to anybody.
That doesn’t give you the right to lie to the police, which is never a good idea. It’s just that, you can choose to not talk at all. The best thing to do is to say, “I would rather not speak with you unless my lawyer is present.” The Fifth Amendment says that that can’t be used against you. Conversely, anything you say-as we all know from the famous Miranda Rights- can and will be used against you. So, my theory is the sooner the better. As soon as you have any reason to believe that there is the potential for a criminal case against you, call a lawyer. It’s absolutely the best way to go.
What Should I Expect To Happen In The First 24 to 72 Hours After An Arrest?
To a certain extent, it depends on what jurisdiction you’re in. There are significant differences between federal and state jurisdictions, and there are even differences among the state courts. In the state of Missouri, you can be held for 24 hours just for questioning. When a prosecutor asks a court to issue an arrest warrant, they will usually make a recommendation as to whether or not you should be held without bail. If the prosecutor agrees to pretrial release on bond, then they will typically recommend an amount. However, that decision is ultimately up to the court, and you can always seek a reduction of the recommended amount or allowance of 10% security, for example.
Cases usually begin with the issuance of an arrest warrant. In the federal courts, the Bail Reform Act requires a bond hearing be held within three days of a person’s being arrested. However, the defendant can ask for an extension of two days. Everything in the federal courts moves much more quickly than it does in the state courts but the procedures are very similar. If you are notified by mail that there is an arrest warrant pending (which happens often in St. Louis County), I would suggest that you immediately pick up the phone and call an attorney. If you call me, I can find out the amount of the recommended bond so that you are prepared with that knowledge. I can also see a court as soon as possible if we need to ask to have the bond reduced.
Again, just because you have been arrested, it doesn’t mean that you have to talk to them. The best course of action is to just sit tight. You can always ask to call an attorney, and you should do that as soon as you are able.
How And When Do Miranda Rights Come Into Play In A Criminal Case?
Miranda rights only come into play if you are subjected to custodial interrogation. Now, that doesn’t mean that you have to be arrested and it doesn’t mean that you have to be in jail. If you are in a situation in which a reasonable person would feel that they were not free to leave, then that would be considered an instance of custodial interrogation. This comes up a lot in traffic stops. If a cop is questioning you while his car is blocking yours, or he has taken your license, then a reasonable person may feel as though they cannot simply drive away from the situation. That would qualify as a custodial interview.
Once you are in custody and a cop starts to ask you questions that are designed to elicit evidentiary information from you, then Miranda rights apply. If the police fail to read you your Miranda rights in such circumstances, then you might have a motion to suppress whatever statements you make or whatever evidence is seized as a result of those statements. However, if the police call and request that you go to the station to speak with them, then Miranda rights may not apply because you would have gone to the station voluntarily and, therefore, are not considered to be in custody by the courts. That’s why it’s so important to contact an attorney as soon as you are contacted by law enforcement, in whatever context.
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