Criminal Law FAQ’s
Q. What should I do if the police come to arrest me?
A. Do not physically resist them. Be polite, and give your identifying information, but do not talk about your case. Sometimes, police will try to get you to “tell your side of the story.” Resist the urge to do it. You might just give them the missing piece of the puzzle that the prosecutor will need to convict you. Ask to speak with an attorney.
Q. The police have asked if they can search me (or my car or house). What should I say?
A. If the police are asking, refuse. If you consent to the search, the police will be able to use what they find against you. If you refuse and they search anyway, then that creates a potential violation of the Fourth Amendment that your lawyer may be able to challenge the search through a motion to suppress or other pleading.
Often, people do not think they can say “no” to police when asked if they will consent to a search. Remember—if the police are asking, politely refuse.
Q. The police want me to take a breath, blood, or urine test to see if I have been driving drunk. Can I refuse?
A. You can, but there are consequences. If you refuse such a test, the Department of Motor Vehicles can suspend your license.
However, think of it this way—if you take a test and you are over the legal limit, you have given the prosecutor extremely strong evidence to use against you in a DUI case. When you are arrested for DUI, the police will seize your driver’s license, anyway. If you end up convicted of DUI, you will have your license suspended for at least six months after that as well. Of course, with DUI cases there are many other penalties as well, including possible jail time.
The bottom line is that most defense attorneys recommend that you not take a breath, blood, or urine test unless you are sure you will pass.
Q. I was arrested, but the police didn’t read me my Miranda rights! Does that help my case?
A. Not necessarily—despite what TV may have told us. The police only need to read you your Miranda rights if there is going to be “custodial interrogation” or you are a “suspect” in an investigation. That means that you have to be in police custody and they have to want to ask you questions. If the police are not going to ask you any questions, they don’t need to read you your Miranda rights.
Q. How does posting a bond work?
A. The court sometimes requires that an arrested person post bond before he or she can be let out of jail. That person can post the full amount of the bond. In that case, the entire amount is returned at the end of the case.
It’s also possible to hire a bondsman. Typically, someone who hires a bondsman has to pay 10% of the total amount of the bond, and the bondsman will post a bond for 100% of the amount. The 10% does not get returned at the end of the case.
Bond can be set very high in certain felony cases. Especially in our current economy, this leaves some people with the tough choice of having to choose between posting bond and hiring a private attorney. Think about contacting a lawyer on behalf of your loved one or friend before you post bond. Sometimes, your lawyer may be able to get a reduction in the bond amount.
Q. I have been arrested, but the prosecutors have not charged me yet. Should I think about hiring a lawyer now, anyway?
A. Absolutely. Early in the process, we may have some leeway to convince the prosecutor not to file charges. If we can knock out the charges that early in the process, it is a tremendous benefit to you. Once charges have been filed, it is more difficult to persuade the prosecutor to drop the case.
This strategy is not going to work in every case, but by retaining a lawyer early, you have the best opportunity to take advantage of the leeway in the system.
Q. If I hire a lawyer, will I have to go to court?
A. One of the many advantages of hiring a private attorney is that your attorney will be able to go to many of your court dates for you. There will be some times when you will have to go to court also, but those are few.
Q. If I hire Douglas R. Beam, P.A. for a criminal case, how will I pay?
A. Typically, we ask that you pay a set fee. We can accept a check, or charge your credit card. A payment plan may also be an option for you. Please note that in criminal cases, contingency fees are not an option. Ethical rules prohibit the charging of contingency fees in criminal cases.
Q. What are “diversion programs?”
A. Diversion programs are offered to certain qualifying individuals accused of crime (generally, first-time offenders). Program participants sign a contract, in which they promise to do certain things (like community service and victim restitution) and keep out of trouble for a certain period of time. If a participant successfully completes their diversion program, then the charges against them are dropped. Contact an attorney to see whether you might qualify for a diversion program.
Q. What is “Drug Court?”
A. Drug Court is a special program in which some individuals accused of drug crimes can participate. Someone in drug court has to acknowledge his or her problems and undergo treatment and supervision. If someone completes Drug Court successfully, then the charges against him or her are dropped or reduced. This program may not be a good fit for everyone charged with a drug crime. An experienced defense attorney can help guide you through the process.
For more information on Drug Court in Brevard County, Florida, please visit the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit’s web site.
Q. Who decides whether I take a plea or go to trial, me or my lawyer?
A. You do. That’s your absolute right. Your lawyer has an ethical duty to tell you about every plea agreement that the prosecutor offers. It is your decision whether to accept it.
Make sure you hire an experienced criminal defense attorney, like the attorneys at Douglas R. Beam, P.A., who can advise you of the risks and possible rewards of your different options.
Q. Should I talk about my criminal case with others?
A. No, only talk about your criminal case with your lawyer and his or her staff. Sometimes in criminal cases, people you think of as your “friends” are called by the prosecutor to testify against you. Do not give them anything to say.