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22 Tips From A Criminal Law Specialist

Raleigh Criminal Law Attorney Tips

1. Never Speak To A Police Officer!
Everything you say WILL BE USED AGAINST YOU in court. Police officers are taught how to lie so you will think you should speak to them. They will tell you that a witness identified you as the perpetrator when no one has. Or they will tell you that they have you on videotape when they don’t. Then, the officer will give you a chance to explain what happened and you will mistakenly think you need defend yourself against this false evidence. When you speak, you may admit to something that helps the court convict you. Or, the officer may misinterpret what you said as a confession and use it against you in court. NEVER SPEAK TO A POLICE OFFICER.
2. What You Should Say To A Police Officer?
You may tell the officer your name exactly as it is printed on your driver’s license or birth certificate. If you give them a nick-name or abbreviation, you may be charged with giving false information to a police officer. You also may give your birth date, home address and telephone number. If you are under 21 years old, the officer may ask for your parent’s contact information so they can tell your parents where you are. DO NOT TELL THE OFFICER ANYTHING ELSE.
3. You Should Tell The Officer You Want To Speak To A Lawyer.
All the information you are required to give an officer is listed in Tip #2.  You must ask to SPEAK TO A LAWYER to inform the officer that you are asserting your constitutional right to remain silent.  Then, keep asking to SPEAK TO A LAWYER.  An officer is not legally allowed to question you after you ask to SPEAK TO A LAWYER.  If you start up a conversation with the officer, he may respond and use your statements against you in court.  If you make a “spontaneous” statement without being questioned by the officer, then he can use that statement against you in court.  An officer will leave you with another person in the back of a patrol car or holding cell, secretly recording your conversation, and use your statements against you in court.  YOU MUST REMAIN SILENT.
4. You Always Have The Right To Remain Silent.
The officer only has to remind you about your Miranda right to remain silent when you are in the officer’s custody and are being interrogated about a crime he thinks you committed.  The officer will testify that you were free to leave during your conversation so he did not have to remind you about your Miranda right to remain silent.  So ask the officer if you can leave.  If he says, “yes, you may go” then leave immediately.  If he says, “no, you may not go,” then he has an obligation to remind you about your Miranda right to remain silent before interrogating you.  YOU MUST REMAIN SILENT.
5. Don’t Lie To An Officer.
People lie to officers on a regular basis.  Officer’s expect you to be untruthful or at least describe your biased version of the truth.  If the officer suspects you lied, he may charge you with “giving false information to an officer,” “resist, delay or obstruct an officer” or “accessory after the fact.”  The court may conclude that you lied to hide your guilt.  Or, your lie may cause the court to determine that all of your other statements are unreliable.  After thorough consultation, you and your lawyer may decide that your best interests justify making a formal statement to the police.  If you have undermined your credibility by lying, you may have squandered this option.  DON’T LIE TO AN OFFICER.
6. An Officer Is Supposed To Charge A Suspect With A Crime.
If an officer suspects that you probably committed a crime, he is supposed to arrest you. “Arrest” means to put you in handcuffs, drive you to the jail, and hold you in custody while he speaks to a magistrate judge. If the magistrate finds “probable cause” to believe you committed a crime, he will formally charge you with that crime. Very few people ever talk themselves out of being arrested. Instead, most people say something that helps the court convict them of a crime. An officer who says, “if you tell me what happened, it will help you” is lying. Only the prosecutor can reduce or dismiss your charges, not the officer. Only your lawyer and the prosecutor can negotiate a plea bargain or immunity agreement. DON’T SPEAK TO THE OFFICER.
7. Never Give Anyone Permission To Search Your Property!
Every time an officer stops a car, he thinks about asking the driver for permission to search. If you say yes, the officer does not need any legal justification to search because you gave him permission. You can’t be certain what is in your car. Maybe a passenger dropped some drugs under your seat weeks ago. If the officer finds those drugs, he will suspect you possessed them and arrest you. If you “say no” and refuse consent to search, then the officer must convince a judge that he had probable cause to suspect the presence on contraband. If the officer did not have probable cause to suspect the presence of contraband, then the judge should declare the search unconstitutional and exclude the seized evidence from court. Without this evidence, most possession charges get dismissed. NEVER GIVE ANYONE PERMISSION TO SEARCH YOUR PROPERTY.
8. What To Say When An Officer Stops You For A Traffic Violation.
If an officer asks, “do you know why I stopped you,” say NO. The officer wants you to admit that you committed a traffic violation. Sometimes an officer will stop you for looking suspicions and then charge you with whatever offense you admit to committing. If the officer asks, “how fast were you going,” say “the speed limit”. If the officer asks, “how fast was that,” say, “I’m sure I wasn’t speeding” and don’t give a speed. If the officer says “I clocked you at ___ in a ___ zone” or “I saw you drive through a red light,” say “I am so sorry, I did not realize it.” If you argue with the officer, you will lose. If you acknowledge the officer’s authority, you have the greatest chance of getting away with a warning ticket.
9. What To Say To An Officer After You Have Been Drinking And Driving.
Follow the first five tips. If you tell the officer you are coming from a bar or party, the court will conclude that you had access to alcohol. If you admit to drinking alcohol, the court will conclude that you have alcohol in your body and it may be affecting your judgment or coordination. The only remaining sobriety issue is are you “appreciably impaired” or do you have a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or greater. If you don’t admit to drinking alcohol, the odor of alcohol about your person may be the beer someone spilled on you. Don’t lie about not drinking because a positive alcohol test will allow the court to conclude that you thought you needed to lie to hide your impairment. Tell the officer “I WANT TO SPEAK TO A LAWYER” and “MAY I GO.”

10. Don’t Perform The D.W.I Field Sobriety Tests!
When an officer asks you to do field sobriety tests, please say “NO THANK YOU”. Your refusal to take these field tests is not evidence of impairment because you are not required to take them. The officer will ask you walk on an imaginary line late at night, when you are tired, outside in the weather, in a dark or poorly lit area, on an uneven surface, while you are nervous from being pulled over. Almost everyone performs poorly on these tests because they are designed to be performed inside a controlled environment without out all of the distractions and obstacles present on the roadside. Without the officer’s testimony that you preformed poorly on the field sobriety tests, it will be much more difficulty for the court to fined you guilty. REFUSE TO TAKE THE FIELD SOBRIETY TESTS.
11. Should You Take The Roadside Portable Breath Test?
Maybe? If you think you may blow under 0.08 on the roadside portable breath test, you may chose to take this test. If you blow under 0.08, the officer may let you go with a warning. If you blow 0.08 or greater, the officer will arrest you for D.W.I. The portable breath test result will not be admitted at your trial because this machine is not sufficiently reliable. However, the officer may testify at your trial that you tested positive for the presence of alcohol in your body. TAKE THE PORTABLE BREATH TEST AT YOUR CAR IF YOU THINK YOU WILL BLOW UNDER 0.08.  Otherwise, don’t take the portable breath test.
12. Should You Take The Alcohol Breath Test At The Police Station?
Maybe? If you blow below 0.08, then the magistrate probably won’t charge you with DWI. However, if you refuse to blow at the police station or blow 0.08 or greater, then the magistrate WILL charge you with driving while impaired. The court is very reluctant to find you not guilty of DWI. if you blow a 0.08 or greater. If you blow 0.15 or greater on your first offense, your limited driving privilege is restricted to driving to work only and you must have an interlock system installed in your vehicle for one year. If you willfully refuse to blow, then the DMV will suspend you driver’s license for one year even if the court finds you not guilty of DWI. You may be eligible for a “refusal” limited driving privilege after 6 months. Unfortunately, there are too many variables for me to advise you to take this test or not.
13. When An Officer Pulls Me Over, Should I Consent To A Search? No!!
Officers see every traffic stop as a potential drug possession arrest. Officers become more suspicious if you are young, traveling from out of state, driving a rental car, or the driver’s description of where you are going does not match a passenger’s. Even without any suspicion, officers will ask for permission to search your car. You may have drugs in your car without knowing it. Perhaps drugs fell from your passenger’s pocket under your seat weeks ago. Or maybe one of your passengers dropped his stash on your floor when the officer pulled you over. When an officer finds these drugs in your car, he will arrest you. If you refuse consent to search the vehicle, you can challenge the illegality of the stop, detention and search in court. If he says he will call for a drug dog, let him.  Usually, this is an idle threat or a drug dog is not available.  ALWARY REFUSE CONSENT TO SEARCH!
14. Officers Will Push You To Consent To An Otherwise Illegal Search.
Officers will park behind your vehicle because you look suspicious, begin a conversation with you and ask you for consent to search your car. You should say no, I want to speak to a lawyer and ask if you may leave. To encourage you to consent to their search request, they may threaten to handcuff you or make you wait for a drug dog to arrive. Officers want to tell the court that you consented to the search request so they don’t have to explain why they conducted an otherwise illegal search. Don’t help the officer violate your rights. DON’T EVER GIVE CONSENT TO SEARCH YOUR PROPERTY.
15. What To Say When An Officer Questions You About Drug Possession.
Follow the first five tips. You can be convicted of possessing drugs you do not own. Possession means you know were the drugs are located and can control access to them. The officer will trick you into admitting that you knew where the drugs were located. For example, one officer may yell to another, “I found heroin” to get you to say, “No, its just pot” so the officers don’t think you possessed a more serious drug. If you admit that you were going to share your marijuana with friends, this evidence may elevate you misdemeanor marijuana possession charge to felony of Possession With Intent to Distribute marijuana. Don’t speak to the officer.
16. What To Do When Officers Knock On You Door – Don’t Answer It!
A “knock and talk” is when an officer comes to your door without a warrant. If you open the door and the officer sees contraband through the doorway or smells marijuana, the officer will enter you home to secure the premises. Securing the premises means looking through your entire home to locate any other people and move them to the living room couch for officer safety. If the officer’s see other contraband while conducting this “safety sweep” they can present that observation to a judge to get a search warrant. But first, the officer will say, “we can avoid the delay of getting a warrant if you just sign this consent to search form.” Don’t sign it.  Make the officer get a search warrant or leave.
17. When May An Officer Break Into Your Home Legally?
First, officers may chase a criminal suspect fleeing through your home and charge you with possessing the contraband they observed as they ran through your home. Second, officers may force open your door if they have an arrest warrant for someone the officer’s reasonably believe lives in your home and charge you with possessing the contraband they observed during their search. Third, officers may force open your door if they have a search warrant and charge you with possessing the contraband they observed during their search. Afterward, the officer will ask you to sign a “consent to search” form so the officer does not to prove to a judge one of these legal justifications existed.  Do not sign the consent to search form.
18. What Is A Misdemeanor Crime?
A misdemeanor is a relatively less serious offense. In North Carolina, misdemeanors are divided into 4 levels with a maximum punishment of 150 days depending upon a person’s criminal history. Driving While Impaired is usually a misdemeanor but is punishable by up to 3 years in prison. Some notable consequences of misdemeanor convictions include the following (1) “domestic violence assault” carries a lifetime ban on possessing a firearm; (2) “sexual battery” may carry a sex offender registration requirement and (3) a drug offense may cancel your eligibility for some student loans or other government assistance. Certain misdemeanor convictions also may cause an immigrant to be deported or denied naturalization.
19. What Is A Felony Crime?
A felony is a relatively more serious offense. In North Carolina, felonies are divided into eight categories. Sentences range from probation and a suspended jail sentence to life in prison depending on the seriousness of the offense and your criminal history. Some notable consequences of a felony conviction are a lifetime ban on possessing a firearm, ineligibility for certain government benefits, and exclusion from certain professions.
20. A Convicted Felon Can Never Possess A Gun.
You can be convicted of possessing a gun you do not own. Possession means you know were the gun is located and can control access to the gun. Possession of a firearm by a convicted felony is both a State and Federal crime. Either court system may prosecute this offense. In federal court, a first offense carries a prison sentence of 0 to 10 years. For someone with a more substantial criminal history, the sentencing range is 15 years to life. If an officer finds you in a car and a firearm under the seat, you may be changed as a felon in possession of a firearm. If an officer searches you home and finds a gun, you may be charged as a felon in possession of a firearm even if someone else owned the gun. As a convicted felon, you cannot risk being near a gun for fear of being charged with possession it. While there may be a tiny exception for temporary possession a gun in self-defense, this exception has not be upheld in a criminal trial and should not be relied upon.
21. A Domestic Violence Assault Means You Can Never Posses A Gun.
Under federal law, a person convicted of a domestic violence assault may not possess a firearm. This is a lifetime prohibition on gun possession. If your job requires you to carry a gun (security guard, military service, probation officer, police, etc.) then you will be fired from your job. Even if you are guilty, you don’t have to plead guilty. The prosecutor may fail to prove you guilty because an essential witness (usually the alleged victim) does not testify. Or, we may be able to negotiate a plea bargain or diversion that avoids this conviction completely. Being guilty does not mean you have to plead guilty.

THEORY OF OUR DEFENSE It Never Happened mistake, setup
It happened, but I Did Not Do It misidentification, alibi, setup
It happened, I did it, but It Was Not a Crime self-defense, excuse, accident, justification
It happened, I did it, it was a crime, but It Was Not This Crime a lesser included offense
It happened, I did it, it was the crime charged, but I Am Not Responsible insanity, diminished capacity, entrapment
It happened, I did it, it was the crime charged & I am responsible, So What jury nullification, moral justification
It happened, I did it, it was the crime charged & I am responsible, Prove It the state must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt
22. What To Expect From Your Attorney.
  • OUR GOALS are to keep you out of jail & to avoid convictions.
  • MY JOB IS TO Explain the law that applies to your case, Describe all of your options, Answer all of your questions, Give you my best advice and Do what you tell me. You make all the important decisions in your case.
  • OUR STRATEGY IS to plead not guilty, prepare for trial & force the prosecutors to prove their case. A plea bargain is our last resort.