Know Your Rights

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In our society, the rule of law is important. Each of us must obey the law and live peaceful, law-abiding lives. But living a law-abiding life is no guarantee of a life free of criminal prosecution. Police, like everyone else, make mistakes, and every year large numbers of people are arrested for crimes that they are later acquitted or exonerated of. Our country’s legal system establishes that each accused person is innocent until proven guilty. And just as we must follow laws, police and prosecutors must also follow laws to give accused people a fair chance within our legal system.

Familiarize yourself with your rights so you can be a better citizen.

What to do if you are pulled over

It has happened to many of us. One moment you’re cruising along, enjoying your drive, and the next moment, you see flashing lights in the rearview mirror. It’s no fun, but it can be less upsetting and dangerous if you know what to do when you are pulled over.

Pull over, of course, and turn your flashers on. Keep your hands on your steering wheel, and move deliberately when instructed to provide documents. If you plan on fighting the ticket, don’t speak much. It helps the police if you explain that you know why you were pulled over. (If you say “because I was speeding,” you’ve confessed!)

What to do if you believe you are under criminal investigation

When you are arrested, officers of the law will advise you of your legal rights, including the right to remain silent. But before you are arrested, staying silent can matter, too.

If police officers come to ask you questions and you think, for any reason at all, that they might be considering you as a suspect for any sort of crime, do not chat freely with them. Instead, turn to a criminal defense attorney immediately and advise one of the situation that you are in. Don’t listen to police bullying tactics. Getting a lawyer does not make you look guilty. Focus on protecting yourself, because a careless comment to a police officer could get you in trouble.

What to do if you are arrested

If you are arrested, the arresting officers will advise you of rights that include the right to remain silent. Exercise that right. Police want nothing more than to have you talking as they slap the cuffs on. Nothing you can say at this moment will help you, and a whole lot of what you could say could hurt you. Getting angry at the officers will make the situation dangerous and possibly stick you with another criminal charge. Debating the merits of the arrest will not help (do police officers ever change their minds mid-arrest?) and could limit your options later on by contradicting more sensible defenses that you and your attorney may want to use in court.

Don’t resist, and don’t chat, one Denver criminal lawyer advises. Instead, ask calmly to speak to an attorney. If you already have a criminal defense attorney (and if you had any inkling that prosecution was coming, you ought to), you should be allowed to meet with him or her. If you don’t have one, get one. In our system, you’ll be provided with an attorney if you can’t afford your own, so you never have a reason to ever try to speak directly to investigators and prosecutors yourself.

From here on, your best bet is to listen to your attorney. Criminal defense attorneys are the experts here, so take their advice and be careful not to disrupt their strategies. With the help of an attorney, you’ll have a fair chance to clear your name and beat the charges.