Criminal Defense FAQ
Presented by Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney McDonald
What are a person's rights before being arrested?
All suspects have and should always invoke the right to remain silent.
This ensures that the suspect, in the heat of the moment, will not incriminate
himself and give the police evidence they would not otherwise have. Many
convictions are only made possible by statements the accused has given
to the police about the crime.. All of us, because of the Constitution,
have the right to be free of "unreasonable search and seizure,"
though this right is accompanied by exceptions and regulations. Don't
let the police into your house without a search warrant! Anyone arrested
has the right to an attorney, a right which should be exercised.
When do I need a lawyer?
If you are under investigation for a crime, being questioned by law enforcement
officers, of if you are charged with a crime, you need a criminal defense
attorney. If convicted of a state or federal offense, you face fines,
incarceration, probation, community service, or other penalties. A criminal
conviction will remain on your record, which may cause you to have difficulty
in gaining employment, leasing an apartment, or getting student loans.
If you have previous convictions, these may be used to increase your penalties.
In some cases, previous convictions may cause a current misdemeanor to
be charged as a felony. Some people try to navigate the criminal justice
system alone, without a lawyer. These individuals, who are representing
themselves "pro per" almost always end up hurting their cause.
The court and the prosecutors give no breaks to defendants choosing to
represent themselves. If you represent yourself, you are held to the same
standards and rules as a lawyer. Since you likely are not a lawyer, you
are at a great disadvantage going against a prosecuting attorney. There
is a reason lawyers have to spend so long in school and take a very difficult
bar exam. Representing yourself in a criminal case is just plain stupid.
What is the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor?
Generally speaking, a felony is a crime that is punishable in the state
prison. Misdemeanors are lesser offenses and are punishable by up to a
year in a county jail. Sentencing laws have recently changed, allowing
some state prisoners to serve their sentence in the county jail.
When will the police get a warrant to make an arrest?
When the police have "probable cause", Probable cause means that
the police have enough evidence to convince a judge that the suspect for
whom the warrant is sought "more likely than not" committed
a crime in question. When the police get the warrant, they can serve it
wherever they can find you.
What if The Police Want to Search my Car or My House?
There are only two ways the police can get into your personal space, such
as your car or home. It the police want to search your car, they must
first have "reasonable suspicion" that you have committed a
crime that justifies searching your car. They can't just search your
car or your person because they have pulled you over! The will usually
ask for consent to search your person or car. Always tell them "No!"
If you give consent, they can search and your lawyer will not be able
to have the evidence they find thrown out due to an illegal search. When
you say "No" after the police ask to search your car, ask them
to then write in the police report that you did not consent. Lots of cases
are made based upon what the police find in your car. The police can also
search your car if you have been arrested near it as "incident to
your arrest." Finally, if your vehicle is towed to impound, the police
can search it to "inventory" its contents. All of these searches
are calculated to discover evidence that will be used against you. Be
careful what you leave in your car!
Your home is your castle! Never, never consent to let the police inside
for any reason. Once they are inside, they will claim they found all sorts
of incriminating evidence. Greet them at the doorway and demand a search
warrant. Except in some unusual cases, the police cannot ever come inside
your house, or yard without a search warrant. Don't open yourself
up to prosecution because you let the police inside your home. To get
a search warrant, the police have to have quite a bit of evidence, and
then a judge has to sign the warrant. If the warrant is not properly put
together, we can have the warrant and all of the evidence along with it,
If the police question me, how can I defend myself?
You tell them that you are pleading your Fifth Amendment right to remain
silent. The police have no right to make you tell them anything. You must
ask to have an attorney present when questioned. Don't be vague about
it. Simply say, "I have nothing to say. I want a lawyer." If
you are harassed by a police officer after you have told them you won't
speak, your civil rights may be violated and this may cause any case against
you to be dismissed. Talk to the Irvine criminal defense lawyer at our
firm to learn more. Never, under any circumstances should you agree to
be interviewed by the police! Most convictions are the result of what
you tell the police during an interrogation. Simply say "I want to
talk to a lawyer!" Don't say another word. On rare occasions,
we allow our client to be interviewed by law enforcement. Those interviews
occur at our offices and on our terms. Such interviews only take place
when we are convinced it will benefit the client in some fashion. Don't
go to the police station and don't talk to a cop alone!
Are you under investigation for a criminal offense in the Irvine area?
Contact an Orange County Criminal Defense Lawyer
at our firm today.