The US Constitution and Bill of Rights guarantee Americans certain rights when they have been accused of a crime. While an Oceanside defense attorney can be critical in helping to ensure your rights are protected, it never hurts to be familiar with your rights so you don’t accidentally waive them when your lawyer is not present.
Illegal Search and Seizure
We previously discussed some of the constitutional protections against illegal police searches and seizures in this article. These protections include preventing a search of your home or cellphone without a warrant, although they do generally allow for searches of your vehicle if you get arrested or there is probable cause to believe contraband is inside, unless the vehicle is in your garage or driveway. There are exceptions to these rules though, for example, if you consent to a search, even just by saying “go ahead” when an officer asks if she can look around or by unlocking your cellphone to show something to the officer. Or, if an officer believes there is an immediate threat to someone occurring inside, he can enter your home without a warrant.
You probably know that you have the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney when being interrogated by the police, but you may not know that police often resort to informal questioning, treating someone as a potential witness rather than a suspect in order to get them to feel comfortable talking without their Oceanside criminal lawyer present. Additionally, many people don’t realize that it is actually a crime to lie to police. That’s why when attorneys say “never speak to the police without a lawyer present,” though, they don’t just mean when you’re in handcuffs, they mean EVER.
And when the police show up asking you questions, it is critical you invoke your right to silence by stating that you are invoking your Fifth Amendment rights. You cannot be charged with obstruction of justice for refusing to answer their questions, but you can be charged with a crime for lying to the police even if you are otherwise innocent of wrongdoing. You are legally required to give information about your identity, but refuse to say anything else without your lawyer present.
Your Right to Walk Away
If the police want to search you or ask you questions, you don’t have to sit there and wait for your attorney as long as you aren’t being detained. A lot of people believe they cannot walk away from the police unless excused, but in reality, you can leave at any time if you are not being detained. Feel free to ask “am I being detained?” at any point and if the officer says “no,” you are free to leave. If he says “yes,” then insist on speaking with your Oceanside criminal attorney.
A Speedy, Fair Trial
If you are charged with a crime, you have the right to a speedy trial (this right is explained in more detail in this article). You and your lawyer may choose to waive that right in order to allow for more time to investigate the crime if you believe it may help your case, but if you do not waive that right, the trial should occur within 60 days of your arraignment on a felony following the preliminary hearing. The preliminary hearing is held within 10 court days of your first court appearance unless you agree to continue it. On misdemeanors, you have a right to a jury trial within 30 days if in custody and 45 if out of custody. Most defendants agree to waive time to allow their lawyer enough time to prepare for the case and often this delay works to the advantage of the defendant.
If the case goes to trial (many don’t), you have the right to be tried against a jury of your peers. The Supreme Court has ruled that means that a racist juror cannot serve in a case against a black man.
You also have the right to maintain your innocence until proven guilty, to defend yourself with the help of an attorney, to confront witnesses and to provide evidence. The last point is particularly important because in many cases people do not realize that while the prosecution can bring in expert witnesses who may work in forensic evidence or other specialty, you and your lawyer can present such evidence as well.
If you have been accused of a crime, it’s critical you contact an Oceanside defense lawyer as soon as possible both to fight the charges and protect your rights. Please call (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free initial consultation.