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  • Paul Manigrasso

I JUST GOT PULLED OVER -- NOW WHAT?



WHAT ARE YOUR RIGHTS WHEN YOU ARE STOPPED BY THE POLICE?


How Does A Criminal Case Get Dismissed Without A Trial?


Many criminal cases are resolved without a trial -- some with straight-forward dismissals.

• In some cases, the prosecution can be misinformed by the arresting officer(s). The arresting officer does not always get the facts right.

• Crime reports are often full of bad information. Officers can make mistakes that place citizens’ rights in jeopardy.


What Can You Do When The Officer Violates The Law And Your Constitutional Rights?


Peace Officers are not above the law themselves. An officer with the power of arrest must also follow the law.

The United States Constitution sets forth certain safeguards that protect all of us from unreasonable and unlawful government intrusions into our private lives. What do I mean?

• Your home is a special place where law enforcement (the government) shall not enter without a warrant to collect evidence of a crime.

There are very limited exceptions to this rule. Obviously, if you give an officer consent to search your home without a warrant you may not complain afterwards. So -- why would you invite an officer into your home to search for evidence of your own criminal conduct?

•Your automobile is a place of lesser constitutional protection, but even your automobile is protected against unlawful government intrusions.

In order for an officer to lawfully search your car, he or she must at least have “probable cause”. That is, he or she must be able to justify the search of your car based upon a “reasonable suspicion” of some criminal activity.

Without a warrant, an officer must be able to spell out for a court of law some facts that he or she relied upon to justify the searching of your car or truck.

An officer must, first of all, have a “reasonable suspicion” of criminal activity before he or she can even stop your car. It is unlawful for an officer to simply order you out of your car and search it for no reason during a traffic stop.


What Should You Do When You Believe You Are The Victim Of An Unlawful Search And Seizure?


• First, physical resistance is not the answer.

• Do not give the officer consent to search. Just say no.

• Get out of the way and let the officer search.

• Your best approach is to challenge the unlawful search with a “Motion to Suppress” the evidence later in court.

• Don’t talk to the officer.

Don’t answer questions. Simply advise the officer you will remain silent, and you will need an attorney before answering any questions. You are not required to talk with or answer the officer’s questions. A criminal defense attorney will be able to advise you on the appropriate actions to take in court, and whether a Motion to Suppress is an appropriate option. When your attorney files a Motion to Suppress in court, he or she is telling the judge that the officer violated your 4th Amendment right to be free from unlawful searches and seizures. It is not a technicality. It is a way to force law enforcement to follow the law. Remember, law enforcement officers are not above the law.


Are You required To Answer An Officer’s Questions?


The answer is no. When does “Miranda” apply, and when do you have the “right to remain silent”? Miranda (Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966) is a 5th Amendment right that applies to you when:

You are in custody, and

you are interrogated.

Custodymeans that you have been arrested, or you have been detained by law enforcement and you are not free to simply walk away. When you find yourself in handcuffs, the conclusion is obvious. You have been arrested.

When an officer is asking you questions about your involvement in a crime, you are being interrogated. When an officer has arrested you and now is asking you questions, he or she is gathering evidence to be used against you.

• What should you do when you are arrested and questioned?

The simple answer is to SHUT UP! You are not going to talk yourself out of the precarious position you are in, so don’t even try. Advise the officer that:

• I am going to remain silent, and

• I want to have an attorney present before I answer any questions.

Even if you are not in custody, arrested or detained, you may still invoke your right to remain silent and to demand an attorney be present before answering any questions. An officer may say, “you are not a suspect, you are not under arrest, and you are free to go at any time”. If there is some question that you may be a suspect or a target of the officer’s investigation, then you walk away, AND you SHUT UP!


Do Police Officers Screw Up Interrogations?


Yes, they do. How could the police get your statement wrong?

• The officer fails to advise you of your Miranda Rights when you are in custody.

• Officers will often question you without recording the interrogation.

• The officer may or may not even take notes while you are responding to his questions.

• This same officer may wait days or even weeks to complete his crime report.

Often times, the officer will, many days after your interrogation, write down your alleged statement in his report based upon his or her memory of that interrogation days or weeks previously. Mistakes are inevitable under these circumstances. The question is how will you protect yourself from these types of mistakes? SHUT UP!


How can An Attorney Help You?


An attorney can look at the facts of your case and advise you whether your Miranda Rights were violated. If it appears that your Miranda Rights were violated, then a pre-trial motion should be filed in court on your behalf.


Do Probationers And Parolees Have Any Rights Regarding Searches By Law Enforcement?


People on Probation or Parole often are required to provide a Fourth Amendment waiver as a result of their conditional release back into society. That is, when a person is placed on Probation or Parole, they agree to give up certain protections they might otherwise have regarding search and seizure. But even a Probation or Parole search condition is not a blank check for law enforcement to search indiscriminately. The basic rule is still the same -- without a warrant, the police and prosecution must justify their search.


When Is A Probation Or A Parole Search Unlawful?


It is unlawful when:

• The officer only discovered the Probation or Parole search condition after the unlawful search was done, and

• there was no justification for the original detention.


Are The Police Always Required To Speak The Truth?


Police officers don’t always tell you the truth. And the courts don’t require them to tell you the truth. So, clear your mind of the notion that you can believe everything an officer tells you. They will lie to you if it suits their purpose.

Examples of when the police will lie to you:

When an officer says to you, they know all there is to know about your case.

They have talked to several witnesses and they all say they saw you commit a crime.

They say this is your only opportunity to tell your side of the story.

Things will go better for you if you cooperate and answer questions.

They may even tell you they will talk to the District Attorney and let he or she know of your cooperation.

They may say that your cooperation will have an effect on the judge, will determine what will happen to you, and that the judge will take your cooperation into account.

If an officer truly knows all about your case and has all these great witnesses at his or her disposal, they probably wouldn’t tell you how strong the case is. They would likely just take you to jail, and spend little time trying to talk to you. The more promises or threats an officer makes to you in order to get you to answer his questions, the more likely it means they don’t know much about your case at alland are hoping you will confess and make their job a lot easier.

When an officer tells you that your friend has already copped out, admitted the crime, and said that you were also involved; what that really means is– the officer has no evidence at all that you have done anything wrong, and your friend has already invoked his “right to remain silent”. So, SHUT UP!


How Good Is Our Legal System?


Our legal system will surely fail if we tolerate our own government agents’ (police officers) willful violation of our nation’s laws. The founders of this great country knew of the dangers ever-present with a government that placed itself above the law. No one can be truly free if the government is not accountable for its actions. The following statement from a landmark case suggests the importance of these practical safeguards in our legal system.

Justice Brandeis said it best:

“Decency, security, and liberty alike demand that government officials shall be subjected to the same rules of conduct that are commands to the citizen. . . Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law. . .” Olmstead v. United States(1928) 277 U.S. 438, 485 [Brandeis, J. dissenting], cited app. Mapp v. Ohio(1961) 367 U.S. 643, 659.

Police officers who violate the law and your constitutional rights are not a new phenomenon. But you don’t have to accept these unlawful acts when perpetrated against you by police officers. These cases should get dismissed.

Only a fool would assume that law enforcement personnel are always objective in their investigations. You need to look no further than the reported opinions in our United States Courts to find reference to well-documented facts of police malfeasance. It must be understood that officers (and prosecutors) have a personal interest in the outcome of cases which cannot invite a blind presumption of their truthfulness. See People v. Dickerson(1969) 273 Cal.App.2d 645, 650 and fn. 4, cited app. without contradiction, as evidence of the “prevalence of police perjury [in criminal investigations (and) testimony] . . .” Briscoe v. LaHue(1983) 460 U.S. 325, 365, andfn. 36 [Brennan, J. dissenting]. Justice Brennan notes, Id., that prosecutors are reluctant to prosecute their malefacting police because they must work closely with them.

“Power is a heady thing,” noted the insightful prosecutor from Nuremberg, “and history shows that the police acting on their own cannot be trusted. And so, the Constitution requires a magistrate to pass on the desires of the police before they violate the privacy of the home.” McDonald v. United States(1948) 335 U.S. 451, 456.

It has become a first principle of criminal advocacy that the People (The District Attorney) have the burden to justify a warrantless search and seizure, Coolidge v. New Hampshire(1971) Warrantless searches and seizures are presumptively illegal Katz v. United States(1967) 389 U.S. 347, 357. This especially applies to residential searches, because the physical entry of the home is the chief “evil” against which the wording of the Fourth Amendment is directed Payton v. New York(1980) 445 U.S. 573, 585.

Don’t forget, prosecutors are not looking for police misconductwhen they are reviewing police reports. They are looking to see if they have enough evidence to convict you of a crime.


What Role Will Your Attorney Play?


You need an attorney to point out unlawful police conduct to the court. This is not a search for technicalities that will allow you to escape punishment. This is, first and foremost, a search for the truth -- all of the truth. This search for the truth will hold the police accountable for their work as well -- and your rights as a citizen will be protected.

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