Q: When should a person call or hire an attorney?
As soon as you become aware that the police or another state
agency is looking for or investigating you, or if you believe that you
may have committed a crime. The earlier you contact a lawyer the better.
An attorney can intervene with the police and either prevent an arrest
or, if you are going to be arrested, arrange for your surrender at a
time and in a manner that minimizes embarrassment to you or your family.
Retaining a lawyer also prevents the police from questioning you.
Q: If the person is innocent, why does he or she need a lawyer?
A: Innocent people do get accused, and convicted, of crimes. Also,
people who may have committed one crime often get accused of committing
additional and more serious crimes. In this country, whether you are
innocent or guilty of committing a crime, you have a right to remain
silent at all times. Even if you have nothing to hide, it is always
better to have a lawyer learn about your accusations and speak on
Q: What should someone do if the police want to question or arrest
him or her?
A: Always be polite and cooperative. Arguing or struggling, even
if you didn't do anything wrong, will never make the situation better.
Don't say anything to the police except your name and other identifying
information. DO NOT discuss the situation with them. Many convictions
result from statements made to the police. Whether the officer speaking
to you is nasty or nice, he or she is looking for evidence that can
be used against you. The police, sometimes will attempt to lie or
trick you in order to get you to talk. You should tell the police
that you want to speak to a lawyer, and that you do not want to speak
to them until you have spoken to a lawyer.
Q: What should a person expect if he or she is arrested?
A: You will be brought to the police station and "booked."
This procedure will include fingerprinting and photographing and obtaining
your biographical information. You will be able to make a telephone
call (make it either to a lawyer or a family member who can call a
lawyer and who has the funds necessary to come bail you out). Depending
on the crime with which you have been charged, a bail commissioner
should be able to look at your criminal record, if any, and release
you from the police station. He or she will require a nominal fee
and sometimes will set a bail amount. Once the bail is received by
the police, you should be released. You must appear at Court at the
time told to you by the police and written on your "Recognizance
Q: What is bail?
A: Bail is money (sometimes other property) that is held by the
Court to ensure that the person accused will return to court when
he or she is required to do so. So long as the person returns to court
as required, the bail will be returned at the end of the case, even
if the person is ultimately found guilty and goes to jail. However,
if the person does not show up for court, the bail will be forfeited
and cannot be returned.
Q: Does the suspect have to put up his own bail?
A: No. Anyone can post the suspect's bail. However the person
posting bail must know that if the suspect fails to show up to court
the money will be forfeited.
Q: Does the money have to be cash or can it be by bond or surety?
A: A bail bond or surety is a promise to pay the amount of the
bail if the suspect does not return to court when required to do so.
Only a licensed bail bondsman can post a bond or surety with the court.
Bondsmen are private businesses who will charge a fee to post the
bond and will usually require some type of collateral (cash or property)
to secure the bond. At the end of the case, assuming the suspect has
shown up for court as required, the bond will be released and the
collateral will be returned.
Q: If I am stopped while driving and the police officer asks me
to do field sobriety tests do I have to do them?
A: The police have an absolute right to ask you to perform the
tests. However, if you don't perform the tests, your refusal cannot
be introduced at trial. In addition, there are no legal consequences
for your failure to do the tests, i.e., you don't have your driver's
license taken away from you.
Q: Should I take a breathalyzer test if I am arrested?
A: By obtaining a driver's license, you have consented to taking
the breathalyzer. Therefore, if you refuse to take the breathalyzer,
your driver's license will be taken away for at least ninety days.
HOWEVER, breath test machines are not perfect and are very often inaccurate.
They were not designed to measure someone's blood alcohol and if you
blow a .08 or more, this evidence will be very very damaging against
you at trial. A couple of drinks can register as a .08 so be extremely
cautious before deciding to take a breathalyzer.