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Archive for the ‘Dealing with Police’ Category

What Not to Do During a Deposition

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

If you’ve been asked to give a deposition on a situation that you have knowledge about, you may be wondering what is required of you. A deposition is simply the process of giving the information that you have to a lawyer or a team of lawyers. Court cases occasionally do not cross a judge’s desk until months, or sometimes years later. A deposition is a way of getting the necessary information out of you as soon as possible so that it is as accurate as it can possibly be. While a deposition is not a scary thing, you may be wondering about etiquette, and while it is not a painful process to give a deposition, there are some things you should be sure to avoid during the process to save yourself and everyone else from a great deal of hassle.
Tip #1: Never Lie
Lying is one of the worst things you can do when you are giving a deposition. If you have been asked to answer the questions of the lawyers, it is because they believe that you have information that is necessary to their case. Everything that you say during your deposition will be recorded, and if you are caught in a lie there is a very real possibility that you will be held accountable for your lie. Even if you think lying will help you or will help someone else who is involved in the case, never lie.
Tip #2: Show Up When Asked
As with lying, not showing up to your deposition can get you in big trouble with the court. If you receive a subpoena asking you to be in a certain place at a specific time, make sure you either go to the appointment or contact the person who subpoenaed you so that you can make other arrangements.
Tip #3: Never Speculate
You may have seen one thing happen but didn’t see the things that led up to what you saw. Then, when you are being examined, you decide to speculate on what you believe happened before hand. Do not do this unless you are specifically asked for your opinion. Always answer in short, precise answers and avoid simply guessing on what you think happened.
Tip #4: Do Not Get Unruly
It can be a long and grueling process to give a deposition, especially if you have a lot of information. Sometimes depositions can go on for hours or even days. People who have little patience may be apt to get cranky about the situation. Avoid this. If you get upset during a deposition it will be noted and may make the court choose to ignore whatever information you have. There is no need to get too stressed during a deposition; simply answer the questions that are posed to you accurately and to the best of your knowledge. If you need a break you are allowed to ask for one as long as you have answered the last question that was asked of you.

How To Handle A Police DUI Stop

Sunday, September 21st, 2008

Don’t drink and drive. Let’s make it even plainer – if you plan to get behind the wheel of a car at any time within a 24 hour period, don’t drink any alcohol. It’s been said many times, but people still don’t listen.

It’s an established fact that different people of various sizes metabolize alcohol differently, so don’t take a chance with your life and the lives of other by trying to judge how much alcohol you can drink before you are impaired. Even one or two drinks can cause you to have impaired judgment. Keep in mind that driving while impaired and driving while intoxicated are serious crimes.

However, since people often do stupid things, they are out there drinking and then driving their cars. If you do drink and drive and are stopped by the police, you can minimize the risk of being charged or convicted by following a few simple rules.

Be prepared. If you are organized and have all the proper documentation ready to hand to the officer, it will go a long way towards making you look good. Obviously, if you can’t find what you need, or are messing around looking for papers, you won’t make a great impression on anyone.

Be calm. If you are all upset and/or acting aggressively, you may cause an officer to believe this is a sign of impairment. Don’t get stressed out. When the officer approaches your car, roll down your window and keep your hands on the wheel. When addressed by the officer, respond politely and speak clearly.

Be quiet. Don’t admit to anything. If you are asked if you have had anything to drink, ask why they want to know, so they can describe the behavior that caused them to pull you over. If you admit to drinking they can and will administer a blood alcohol test. You are not obligated to answer any questions other than your name and address, and need only supply the officer with your documents.

Be polite. Don’t yell at or argue with the officer. Obviously, if you are overly aggressive or angry, the officer may feel that you are impaired and will insist on a sobriety or blood alcohol test. While it may be difficult to refuse to answer questions politely, it can be done if you keep your cool. If you are polite when answering initial questions, its possible that the officer may not even ask if you have been drinking.

Be smart. If you are asked to get out of the car, do so, but do not agree to any testing on the roadside, if you can. Avoid giving the officer any reason to administer the blood alcohol test. They cannot administer the test without a reasonable suspicion that you are impaired, so don’t give them one. However, if the officer insists on a sobriety or blood alcohol test, you may have to submit to testing, as there could be severe penalties for a refusal to take the testing.

Remember, your best bet is to never drink and drive. That way, you don’t have to worry about remembering any of these rules.

Car searches: what police can and can’t do

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

When you are pulled over for violation of a traffic law, the police officer may want to also search your car depending on the circumstances. This is normally done if there is probable cause. For example, if your car smells like marijuana, the police officer that pulled you over might suspect that you have other drugs or drug-related paraphernalia hidden in the car. If there isn’t probable cause and a police officer wants to search your car, you have the right to ask why. Whether you are innocent or not, it’s important to know the laws regarding car searches and what’s in your trunk.

The following questions and answers will give you the necessary information you need to know about car searches under the law.

What do I do if an officer insists on searching my car? If a police office has probable cause, he or she can insist on searching your car. When this happens, do not interfere. It is better to challenge the validity of the search in court rather than with a police officer.

What is probable cause? Probable cause regarding car searches is considered a reasonable basis for police officers to strongly believe that the vehicle contains incriminating evidence. Therefore, the officers are legally justified in carrying out a search of the car.

What part of the vehicle can the police search under probable cause? Normally, the police can search the immediate area in and around the driver’s front seat. Some state laws offer greater protection against vehicle searches than others.

Can the police search my glove compartment? Yes. The glove compartment is considered, by law, part of the area in and around the driver’s front seat.

Can the police search a closed container if it is inside my car? Police are permitted to search any closed containers or packages found in your car under a legitimate search of a vehicle without a warrant. The container can only be inspected if there is a reasonable claim that it might contain evidence of a crime for which the police had probable cause to search the vehicle in the first place. The Supreme Court ruled in 1982 that the police do not have to have a warrant in order to search closed containers found in the passenger compartment of a motor vehicle whose occupant is under arrest.

Can the police search my vehicle without a warrant? This all depends on the circumstance regarding the reason why you were pulled over by the police in the first place. The police would not normally have the right to search your vehicle if they stopped you for a simple traffic violation such as running a stop sign, but if the violation requires that you be taken into custody the search would generally be allowed. The police have more leeway when it comes to searching a vehicle than they do when searching a home. The United States Supreme Court recognizes an automobile exception under the Forth Amendment’s protection against searches without a warrant.

Speaking with the police and knowing your rights

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

When you are suspected of a crime or suspected of being involved in a crime, the police will bring you down to the station for questioning. If this should happen, there are a few things you need to be aware of as far as your rights are concerned.
First and foremost, the police must inform you that you are under arrest. If you have not been arrested, you do not have to report to the police station. Should you decide to head down to the station anyways, be sure to talk with a lawyer before doing so. In going to the police station of your own accord, you are free to leave at any time. The police cannot keep you at any time against your will unless they officially arrest you.

Plenty of people are aware of Miranda rights because of television and movies, but very few people exercise these rights. Miranda rights are usually issued at the time of arrest. Police read the rights and often minimize their importance because that is part of their job. You may give up two invaluable rights when you answer questions after the Miranda rights are issued: the right to remain silent according to the Fifth Amendment and the right to have a lawyer present during questioning according to the Sixth Amendment.

These rights are invaluable because you may unwittingly provide information that could implicate you in the crime during police interrogation. You do not know what the police officers may know. They are as interested in eliminating innocent suspects as much as they are in gathering evidence against the guilty. Either way, it is best to consult a lawyer before answering any and all questions.

If you have committed the crime in question, you basically have no chance of talking your way out if it. In this instance, silence is the best defense. The majority of criminal convictions result from individuals who accidentally provide evidence against themselves. Police often build a criminal case based on what the suspects in question provide during questioning. Any information you reveal during questioning can be used against you during court proceedings.

If you do decide to speak with the police freely, you have the right to stop answering questions if you feel threatened or uncomfortable. Simply tell the officer or officers that you do not want to talk anymore without a lawyer present. The police cannot continue to interrogate you if you indicate in any way shape or form that you do not with to answer any more questions. The police cannot force you to answer questions through physically or psychological means. Any information that is obtained through these means is inadmissible in court. The use of physical force or psychological coercion is considered police misconduct.

If you have been arrested and brought in for questioning, remember that you have the right to remain silent, you have the right to speak with an attorney and you have the right to answer questions only when your attorney is present.

What do I do if I get pulled over?

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

You know the routine. You’re driving down the street when suddenly, red and blue bright lights appear in your rearview mirror. Your hands tighten up on the steering wheel and you being to sweat. You ease off the gas and pull your car into the right lane, hoping that the cop behind you will pass you by. But he doesn’t. Instead, he slows up behind you signaling you to pull off to the side of the road.

The first thing you need to do is pull over into a safe area far off to the side of the road. You don’t want to impede the flow of traffic behind you. Make sure that the area you pull into has plenty of space for both your car and the cop car. Don’t coast for a few miles with the cop tailing you closely from behind. He may begin to wonder whether or not you are not you are stalling on purpose, perhaps to hide something in the glove compartment or under the seat. If you happen to pass by a few safe places to pull over, he may grow suspicious.

Despite what most people think, it’s best not to turn off your engine. Put the car in park, but keep the engine running. Some police officers don’t want to have to deal with a stalled car in addition to the reasons why they pulled you over. The officer may ask you to turn off the engine when he approaches the car. If that is the case, then it is safe to do so. Take the keys out of the ignition and place them gently on the dashboard. Then place your hands on the steering wheel where the officer can see them. Don’t make any sudden movements or reach for something unless the officer asks for your license and registration. Police officers are taught to be cautious and apprehensive when approaching a motorist. The first thing they look for when you roll down the window is the placement of your hands.

Also, stay in the car. If you leave your car at any time, the police officer may think that you’re going to make a run for it. Don’t give him any more reasons to be suspicious. You want to be as polite and as courteous as possible. Be careful what you say and how you phrase your answers. Many people try to explain or reason their actions before they even know why they were pulled over in the first place. By doing this, you may accidentally reveal something that the officer was unaware of. Let the officer speak first. Answer calmly and remain patient while the officer details the reasons why he pulled you over. In most cases, if you weren’t excessively speeding or doing something blatantly illegal, most cops are likely to let you go with a warning. Do not argue with them. If they are going to give you a ticket anyway, you can argue your case in court instead.

What do I do if I’m arrested and my rights aren’t read to me?

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

Although it is a common misconception that during any arrest in the United States the police officer will read the suspect their Miranda Rights, this is only strictly necessary if the officer intends to interrogate the suspect.  If you are arrested and questioned without having had your Miranda Rights read to you, however, then legally the arresting officer has made a serious error in protocol and the subsequent court case will probably be altered because of it. 

Normally an arresting officer will prefer to take note of what you say after being arrested so that he or she can use any information gathered at this point as evidence in court.  Suspects have been known to make contradicting statements, to plead guilty right away or to name other guilty parties to avoid taking all the blame on themselves.  Information gathered during arrest is often very useful in securing a conviction because if it can’t be used directly as evidence it normally leads to something or someone that can.  If the Miranda Rights are not read, however, any information gathered during this period must be stricken from the record and fully dismissed by the court.

The reasoning for this goes back to the original case that spawned the Miranda Rights, in which Ernesto Miranda confessed to a crime and was convicted solely based on that confession.  He said that he was unaware he was able to say nothing when placed under arrest that would hurt his chances in court and so based on this miscommunication his conviction was overturned and a new court date had to be set.  Today, when people are arrested, they must be read their rights or anything they say is strictly off the record. 

If you have not been read your rights and yet you have been placed under arrest and questioned by police then you need to speak to a lawyer right away.  The lawyer will know the proper procedures for dealing with such a mistake and also how to ensure that nothing you may have said during the time you were arrested up until someone finally read your rights to you will hold up in court to prosecute you.  It is very important that you deal with a lawyer if you have missed your rights reading because a legal professional is the only person who can sort out what needs to be done to rectify the situation and who knows how to work it to your advantage if need be.

Remember that if you are arrested and questioned, you must have been read your rights.  The only case that doesn’t call for the reading is if you are placed under arrest and not brought in for interrogation.  This is rare if you are being accused of a crime, so keep in mind that you should generally have been read your Miranda Rights.  If not, contact legal aid as soon as possible and always limit what you say to the police until you have spoken to your legal representative. 

Will I be harassed if I become a witness?

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

If you have witnessed a crime, you probably know that you will need to speak with the police about it, but doing so can be daunting.  After all, what if the criminal knows what you have done and isn’t happy about it?  Could they decide to take revenge for your testimony in court, or even just for answering a few questions at the cop shop?  Although for petty crimes this is really not often the case, the anxiety of being an actual witness to such an event is understandable and if you are wondering how to proceed if you are a witness, there are a few things you should keep in mind.

Being a witness in a criminal court case is usually fairly straight-forward.  You will be required to take the stand and answer a few questions about who you are and what you saw, and if the trial is out of town you are entitled to claim compensation for any traveling you need to do and any hotel fees.  Basically, it is your presence on the witness stand that is crucial to the case so once you have agreed to take the stand as a witness it is important that you do so.  If you are uneasy about the experience, you should be aware that the police will make an extra effort to ensure your safety before, during and after the trial so you should not be hassled by the suspect or any of their friends or relatives. 

With good reason, it is against the law for any suspect to harass or threaten witnesses so if this is happening you need to immediately tell the police.  If you are certain that your testimony will be answered with threats then tell the police beforehand and you will have some extra protection throughout the proceedings.  If police are aware that there might be problems due to your testimony, they will not only offer extra protection but they may suggest you stay away from home for the duration of the trial.  You might even like to stay in a hotel while the trial continues just to get some peace of mind and the space to think about everything that is happening.

If the suspect knows you and knows where you live, this can be a great idea so that they are a loss as to where to find you and therefore cannot do any harm or make you nervous before hitting the stand.  The most important thing to remember is to not let any threats or even the prospect of a threat stop you from making a testimony that could mean the difference between prosecution and walking away for a suspect.  If it is important to you that justice is done, you need to step up and realize your role within the criminal law system – everyone has to contribute sometime, so don’t be nervous, take a few deep breaths and don’t let anyone bully you out of doing the right thing. 

I was a victim of Police Brutality, what do I do?

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

Police brutality is the term used to refer to instances where the police are overstepping their boundaries with suspects and using force and outright violence to control individuals when the circumstances do not call for it.  Police officers do have the right to use a certain amount of force when they are subduing suspects and criminals, and this is often necessary given the fact that such people will try to run away, hit the officers or simply resist arrest.  When this happens, some force becomes necessary or the suspect in question will not actually be arrested or brought to trial for whatever crimes have been committed.  When this is not the case, however, police officers using force are actually acting unlawfully. 

Unfortunately it is not altogether uncommon to hear tales of police brutality, especially on minority groups throughout the United States.  People are singled out, accused of crimes and often beaten by officers who may think they are acting in the best interests of a community but often times simply have a grudge against certain people and groups.  If you have been a victim of police brutality, it can be very difficult to know what to do since in cases of assault your normal recourse is the police department. 

Although it can seem like the wrong course of action, you really do need to speak with the police department to report a case of police brutality; it is the responsibility of an internally organized police force to investigate such claims and follow up on them.  The task force will need to look into your story and gather as much details as they can about the scenario in question, and then they will conduct interviews with the officer or officers in question, any witnesses that might have been handy and any extra evidence that might be gathered.  The case will be treated as any other criminal investigation with the exception that a police officer is under review; because of what might be a delicate situation it is likely that the officer will take a hiatus until the matter is cleared up, or that they will face suspension until a verdict is reached. 

Aside from this legal process, you can report the incident to a support group or a neighborhood watch organization.  These will offer not only a sympathetic ear but the opportunity to spread the word about corrupt cops so that others can beware of the danger.  A police investigation will not be internally advertised when it concerned police brutality, so if you want others to know about what you’ve gone through as soon as its happened, a group like this will be invaluable to you.  Remember, if you are a victim of police brutality, you need to report the incident to none other than the police; after this you can find support with a dedicated community organization.  You should always file a complaint if something like this happens to you, because no matter how much power police officers are given they have no right to inflict violence on someone without a very good reason. 

Do I have to tell the police absolutely everything they want to know?

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

If an officer stops you out of the blue and wants to ask you questions, you are not legally obligated to tell them anything.  This is true whether you are or are not actually under arrest; if you have simply been stopped on the street or even at your home by a police officer then you can answer whatever questions you like and skip any you feel like skipping.  You are not under arrest and as such you can walk away at any time.  If the officer feels that speaking with you is of particular importance or that you are acting guilty of something, they may stop you again right away but the same rules apply: unless you are being arrested there is no obligation on your part to answer any question at all.

If you are under arrest, however, there are really no differences except that if you do choose to answer questions the answers will be noted for future reference and perhaps use in court.  When you are arrested, you will be told exactly what your rights are in terms of answering questions so that no confusion occurs.  Basically, you do not have to speak to police (as with a non-arrest situation) and if you choose to have a lawyer present when dealing with questions you are fully entitled to do so.  If you do not have a lawyer or can’t afford one, the State will provide one for you.

A lawyer may not seem a necessary provision when speaking to the police, but the face is they will know what questions might cause you to incriminate either yourself or a friend so if you talk to them beforehand and have them present during the discussion you can avoid letting something slip that might hurt your case.  This is only in extreme cases, however, since for the most part a police officer will only want to speak with you briefly about something that you may have a slight knowledge of, say a work colleague’s whereabouts on a certain night or something of that nature.  Again, giving out information like this can seem like the wrong thing to do, especially if it concerns someone else who is unaware of the current questioning, so if you do not want to answer such questions you are within your rights always to refuse to do so.

The key thing to remember if you don’t want to answer police questions but you also don’t want to end up in unnecessary trouble, is that if you seem evasive they probably will come back to try to talk to you again.  Don’t run away, don’t be very rude and hopefully your slight uncooperativeness will just seem like a way to keep your privacy and maintain the trust of others above the strangers that are the police.  Whatever information you wish to divulge is up to you – there are no questions you must answer and if you want to answer none that is completely your call.

Getting along with Cops – Perhaps not as Tough as you Might have Guessed

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

Sometimes it is the hardest thing in the world to come face to face with a cop and be nice.  They are in a position of authority, they only talk to you when you are getting fined or punished in some way, and what’s more you know you could have done that same job but you wanted not to be a professional bully when you grew up.  At least that’s how it feels when you are facing a ticket and a stern, immobile face.  Citizen and cop relations have always been tense, but there are a few things you can keep in mind when dealing with police officers so that you don’t fly off the handle and get yourself into far more trouble than you were originally in.

You get what you give

Always remember that the first rule of making friends is to smile – even if it’s the last thing you want to do, just a friendly little upturning of the lips can unblock the first wall on the way to a tension-free existence between the cops and your own kind.  It’s not as if you have to do it in the face of a ticket, but if you can first just manage a little smile when you see an officer walking past, dully checking the parking meters or doing other odd jobs that don’t involve you then you are closer to being in good standing with these authority figures.

Try not to blame them for every little thing

Sometimes in life, you will get a ticket.  Or have your jacket searched, or see your friend patted down with no just cause.  These things always happen and everyone will go through it at some point.  The key is not to blame all of these occurrences on the police themselves, since of course they took the job based on the fact that they would follow orders and not do any interpretive thinking on any subject covered under local law.  Let the small things go and if you aren’t able to act happy in the face of such irritations then at least don’t act angry.

Think about being a cop yourself

For a few minutes, imagine if it was you who dreamt of holstering that gun, putting on that hat or chasing down horrible criminals.  This might not be you at all, but if you think about being in this position for a little while you can start to see all the things that might worry such a person, and that cops are facing an incredible amount of danger every day.  Your sympathy could win over your natural hatred!

Know the law

Any altercations with the law might run a lot more smoothly if you knew your rights and responsibilities within the American law system.  To know what is expected of you in different legal circumstances is to know where you and the police stand and what you owe them and what you do not.  This means that you have done your best to earn the respect of those that stand in authority over you; a job not easily done.

When all else fails, think of them as robots

Let’s face it, cops are here to follow the letter of the law and most of the time that means there is no arguing with them: no amount of your own logic will penetrate that seemingly thick skull and therefore it is best not to waste your time.  It’s easier to stay calm around a stubborn robot than it is a stubborn person because you know the robot doesn’t have the capacity to think past its current settings.  If it helps, don’t think of the police as people and you won’t feel such a strong disliking for them!