Five Things to Remember if You’re Pulled Over by Police

Being pulled over by the police is always a stressful event, even if you don’t believe you’ve done anything wrong. You know, at the very least, that you’re likely going to have an intimidating conversation, may wind up with a ticket, and are very likely to be late to wherever you’re trying to go. However, if you keep these five things in mind, you can minimize the harm a police stop can do.

Try to stay calm.

Remaining calm at a police stop isn’t just a good idea from a mental health perspective. It will also help you to maintain perspective and stop from acting rashly. Moreover, the more nervous you act, the more it may incentivize a police officer to escalate the stop to a search or seizure, so the less jittery you can seem, the better your odds of walking away with minimal consequences.

Don’t feel obligated to answer police questions.

While the 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination (the “right to remain silent”) doesn’t apply if you’re not in police custody, you’re still not legally obligated to answer a police officer’s questions. Thus, if you believe an answer to a police officer’s question is more likely to cause harm than good, you can simply say you don’t want to answer their question. At that point, the officer may need to choose between escalating or letting you go, but at the very least you’re not providing additional evidence that may be used against you.

You may not be able to stop a police search.

Under normal circumstances, the police cannot search a person’s property without a warrant backed by probable cause. However, under the so-called “automobile exception” to the 4th Amendment, a police officer can conduct a search of a motor vehicle without a warrant, so long as they have probable cause to believe the vehicle contains evidence of a crime. This means that stopping a search of your car may be nearly impossible, so don’t get too upset if the police decide to start rooting through your car at a traffic stop.

You can refuse a breathalyzer, at a price.

Technically speaking, you don’t need to submit to a breathalyzer test at a traffic stop if you don’t want to. However, by law, anyone who refuses a breathalyzer test at a traffic stop automatically forfeits their driver’s license. So, if you don’t want to take the breathalyzer, you can refuse, but you may not be able to legally drive again for at least a year.

You can ask to call a lawyer.

Just like in any other situation where you find yourself confronted by the police and at risk of arrest, you can call your lawyer to help you at a traffic stop, if you can get in contact with a lawyer in a reasonable time period. That said, the police aren’t obligated to wait around for your attorney to show up, nor do they have an obligation to wait while you search for a lawyer to call. Thus, if you can’t get your attorney on the line right away, the next place you’ll likely have a chance to talk to them is at the police station.

If you are placed under arrest, remember to exercise your right to an attorney and get legal representation as soon as possible. A Suffolk County criminal defense lawyer, who is experienced in handling criminal cases of all sorts, can advise you of your legal rights and will fight for your best interests in court. If you or your loved one has been arrested, contact the Central Islip criminal defense attorneys at McGuire, Peláez and Bennett at (631) 348-1702.

A Confession is Not the End of Your Case

It’s one thing to know that you have a right to an attorney and the right to remain silent when questioned by police. It’s another thing entirely to exercise those rights when you’re in police custody and facing interrogation by professional officers or detectives. People don’t make the best decisions when they’re under that kind of stress, and it’s surprisingly easy for police to elicit a confession under such circumstances, even from people who are innocent. Fortunately, however, a confession alone isn’t necessarily the end of your case. Continue reading “A Confession is Not the End of Your Case”

Sweeping Criminal Justice Reforms to Take Place Starting January 1st

A package of reforms was signed into law in April that are set to completely change the criminal justice environment in New York State. The reforms will take effect starting January 1st, 2020, and both police and prosecutors are preparing the changes in procedure necessary to accommodate the changes. The reforms themselves are a major victory for criminal justice advocates, who have aimed for these reforms for years.

Some of the most significant changes were those made to rules related to bail, which has eliminated bail for misdemeanor offenses, except in cases of sex crimes or violating orders of protection. It also eliminated bail for most non-violent felonies, except for witness tampering, conspiracy to commit murder, domestic violence cases, crimes against children, sex crimes and terrorism-related offenses. It was even eliminated for most Class A nonviolent drug felonies, and some burglary and robbery-related felonies. This will mean that most people accused of a crime will be able to defend themselves from outside of a jail cell, allowing them to maintain their regular lives while the cases hang over their heads.

Another important set of reforms was made to the discovery rules, the laws that govern when, how and what kind of evidence the prosecution and defense must turn over to one another. The new discovery rules will make it so the prosecution must turn over all the evidence they have within 15 days after arraignment, with some exceptions. The defense will also get the names and contact information of anyone with information relevant to a case, names and assignment of all police officers involved, and every witness statement, even if the prosecution never intends to call them to the stand.

Prosecutors, meanwhile, will no longer be able to claim police evidence delays as a reason for not turning over evidence, and must turn over all evidence they intend to use at trial 15 days before the trial. Defense attorneys must provide all the evidence they intend to use at trial to the prosecution within 30 days of the trial. Prosecutors can still get a restraining order to avoid disclosing certain sensitive information to the defense, if they can convince the judge there is sufficient cause to do so.

If you or someone you know has been arrested for a criminal offense, you will need legal counsel to help you preserve your rights and get you the relief you deserve. A New York criminal defense lawyer, who is experienced in handling criminal cases of all sorts, can advise you of your legal rights and will fight for your best interests in court. If you or your loved one has been arrested, contact the Suffolk County criminal defense attorneys at McGuire, Peláez and Bennett at (631) 348-1702.

What is the Miranda Warning?

If you have ever watched a law enforcement-based program on TV, like Law and Order or NCIS, chances are you’ve heard of the Miranda warning, and Miranda rights. You may even be able to recite them from memory. But why is it so important for police officers to tell suspects their Miranda rights, and what happens if an arresting officer fails to do so? Continue reading “What is the Miranda Warning?”

Collateral Consequences of Criminal Convictions

It doesn’t take a genius to know that if you are convicted of a crime, or plead to having committed a crime, you’ll be punished with jail or prison time, probation, fines, or some combination of the above. However, there’s more to crime and punishment than just that, and if you’re not careful, you can find yourself suffering from the collateral consequences of your punishment without realizing it. Continue reading “Collateral Consequences of Criminal Convictions”

The Expectation of Privacy

The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution says that a citizen cannot be the subject of an unreasonable search or seizure without a warrant backed by probable cause. But in the Supreme Court case Katz v. U.S., the Court ruled that the Fourth Amendment applies only in cases where a person has a “reasonable expectation of privacy.” And it’s not always obvious when you have a reasonable expectation of privacy, at least by the court’s standards. Continue reading “The Expectation of Privacy”

When Do You Have a Right to an Attorney?

The right to an attorney is enshrined in the United States Constitution as one of the fundamental rights that every American has by birthright. After all, how can someone defend themselves in court if they aren’t given access to legal expertise, which they are unlikely to have themselves? But things are more complicated than they first appear, because there are two slightly different rights to an attorney, and the distinction can be important.

The right to an attorney is guaranteed by two constitutional amendments in the Bill of Rights: The Fifth Amendment, and the Sixth Amendment. Though both amendments guarantee your right to an attorney, they have a couple of important distinctions between them. First is the difference in timing: the 5th Amendment right to counsel guarantees your right to a lawyer while you’re being interrogated in police custody; the 6th Amendment right to counsel, on the other hand, guarantees your right to counsel during the critical parts of a criminal prosecution.

However, there’s another, more significant difference: the 6th Amendment requires the court to appoint you a lawyer if you can’t afford one at the time of your arraignment (when you’re formally charged with a crime). The 5th Amendment requires police to allow you access to a lawyer if you already have one, but they aren’t required to provide you with one, because an arrest doesn’t necessarily signal the beginning of a criminal prosecution. Thus, you can be in a situation where you are legally entitled to have an attorney, but you aren’t yet legally entitled to have one appointed to you by the court. And if you’re being interrogated by the police, it can be very helpful to have an attorney present to advise you on your rights.

Those who have been charged with a crime can face serious legal consequences. A New York criminal defense lawyer, who is experienced in handling criminal cases of all sorts, can advise you of your legal rights and will fight for your best interests in court. If you or your loved one has been arrested, contact the Suffolk County criminal defense attorneys at McGuire, Peláez & Bennett at (631) 348-1702.

Tragic New York Boating Accident Case Comes to a Close

As the weather heats up, more New Yorkers are taking their boats out onto the open seas. Although boating is a fun activity to engage in, it is important to recognize that it can also be extremely dangerous if certain precautions are not taken. Boat accidents may occur for various reasons, including boating under the influence, negligent speeding, or a manufacturers defect, among others. Recently, a New York man was convicted of manslaughter in a horrific boating accident that occurred on Lake George and resulted in the death of an 8-year-old girl and other serious injuries.

Continue reading “Tragic New York Boating Accident Case Comes to a Close”

Suffolk County Judge Reopens Juvenile Drug Treatment Court in Central Islip

On January 26, 2017, a Suffolk County judge announced the reopening of the Juvenile Drug Treatment Court in Central Islip. Several years ago, many had deemed the drug treatment courts for juveniles to be a success. However, due to lack of state funding, these drug treatment courts became obsolete in Suffolk County, while drug treatment courts for adults remained. The goal of the juvenile drug treatment court is to reduce substance abuse and non-violent behaviors among the youth who have become involved in the family court system.

Continue reading “Suffolk County Judge Reopens Juvenile Drug Treatment Court in Central Islip”

New York Orders of Protection

An Order of Protection (OP) is a Court Order mandating an individual to either refrain from certain behaviors against specified individuals, or to stay away from the protected party entirely. The purpose of an OP is to protect the alleged victim from harm. Most often OPs are directed in response to incidents of domestic violence. Multiple courts have jurisdiction to issue OPs, and all orders require the restricted individual to surrender any firearms they may have.

Continue reading “New York Orders of Protection”