When can a police officer pull me over?

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 10 of the Minnesota Constitution protect against unreasonable searches and seizures.  To lawfully stop a motorist, an officer must have a specific, articulable, and objective basis for suspecting the particular person stopped of criminal activity.

What if I get pulled over?

Remain calm and remain in your seat.  The police officer will approach your vehicle and ask to see your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance.  It is a requirement under the law to have these items in your possession while driving a motor vehicle.  Provide these documents to the officer.

The officer will likely ask you if you know why he or she pulled you over.  Simply stating “no” is often the best response.  Responses such as, “I was probably going a little too fast” or “because I rolled through that stop sign” may be used as admissions against you if you later want to contest the basis for the stop.

The officer will then review your driving record and check for the presence of any warrants for your arrest.  The officer may also ask if you have any contraband in the vehicle.  Contraband is anything that is illegal to possess.  If you tell the officer that you do not have any contraband in the vehicle, they will often say, “You don’t mind if I check then do you?”  This is a request for consent to search your vehicle.

Under most circumstances, it is best not to consent to a search of your vehicle.  If the officer orders you to get out of your vehicle and begins to search it anyway, make it clear that you do not consent to a search of your vehicle.  Under certain circumstances, the officer may search your vehicle without your consent.  The important thing to remember is that you should make sure the officer knows you do not consent to a search of your vehicle.

What if I have been drinking alcohol?

The officer may ask you if you have had anything to drink.  If you have been drinking alcohol and you answer yes, your answer may provide the basis for the officer to further investigate.  At the same time, you are under no obligation to incriminate yourself.  If you choose to provide factual information, you must be truthful.  Otherwise, simply telling the officer you do not wish to comment and would prefer to speak with an attorney may be the best response.

The officer may also ask you to perform field sobriety tests.  These often consist of the one-leg stand, the walk and turn, and the horizontal gaze nystagmus test.  You are under no legal obligation to perform these tests.  However, if you decide to participate in these tests, the results will be used by the officer to determine whether he or she believes you are impaired.   The officer may also ask you to take a preliminary breath test which involves blowing into a hand-held machine while still at the scene of the traffic stop.  The officer will be constantly observing you and your performance during these tasks.  If the officer believes you have consumed some amount of alcohol and that you are impaired, you will be arrested.

What if I am arrested?

If you are placed under arrest, you will likely be taken to jail.  The most important thing to remember is that you need not, and most often should not make any statements without first speaking with a criminal defense lawyer.  Once at the jail, you will likely be photographed, fingerprinted, and questioned.

Do they have to read me my rights?

A police officer must read you your rights if you are in custody and being interrogated (asked questions).  If you are in custody but not being interrogated, or if you are being interrogated but not in custody, your rights need not be read to you.  There are two requirements:  (1) Custody; (2) Interrogation.  Remember though, you have the right to remain silent and are often better off exercising your right to remain silent and asking to speak with a criminal defense lawyer.

When will I be released from jail?

It depends if you were arrested because there was a warrant for your arrest.  If you were arrested because there was a warrant for your arrest, you must be taken before a judge as directed in the warrant.  The judge will then address the reason for the warrant and may set conditions for your release.   

If you were arrested due to the suspected commission of a crime, the arresting offer may determine that further detention is not justified and you may be released with a citation and order to appear in court on a particular date and time.  In misdemeanor cases, peace officers who decide to proceed with prosecution and how act without a warrant must issue a citation and release the defendant unless it reasonably appears: (1) the person must be detained to prevent bodily injury to that person or another; (2) further criminal conduct will occur; or (3) a substantial likelihood exists that the person will not respond to a citation.

An arrested person who is not released must be brought before the nearest available judge of the county where the alleged offense occurred.  The defendant must be brought before a judge without unnecessary delay, and not more than 36 hours after the arrest, exclusive of the day of arrest, Sundays, and legal holidays, or as soon as a judge is available.  In misdemeanor cases, a defendant who is not brought before a judge within the 36-hour limit must be released upon citation.

If you are not released with the issuance of a citation and are brought before a judge, the judge will consider releasing you.  A person charged with an offense must be released without bail when ordered by the prosecutor, court, or any person designated by the court to perform that function.  On appearance before the court, a person must be released on personal recognizance or an unsecured appearance bond unless a court determines that release will endanger the public safety or will not reasonably assure the defendant’s appearance.  When this determination is made, the court must either, in lieu of or in addition to the above methods of release, impose the first of the following conditions of release that will reasonably assure the person’s appearance as ordered, or any combination of the following conditions: (1) Place the defendant under the supervision of a person who agrees to supervise; (2) Place restrictions on travel, association, or residence during release; (3) Require an appearance bond, cash deposit, or other security; or (4) Impose other conditions necessary to assure appearance as ordered.

The court considers the nature and circumstances of the offense charged, the weight of the evidence, family ties, employment, financial resources, character and mental condition, length of residence in the community, criminal convictions, history of appearing in court, prior flight to avoid prosecution, the victim’s safety, any other person’s safety, and the community’s safety.

When I am released from jail, what happens next?

Upon your release from jail, you will be given a court date.  It is imperative that you attend this court appearance commonly referred to as a First Appearance.  The purpose of the first appearance is for the court to inform the defendant of the charges, the defendant’s rights, including the right to have counsel appointed if eligible, and the opportunity to enter a plea in certain cases.  The court must also ensure that the defendant has a copy of the complaint, citation, or written tab charge.  If conditions of release have been set which include monetary requirements and the defendant cannot meet the monetary obligations, the court can also review the conditions of release.

The court must also advise the defendant that he or she has the right to remain silent and not submit to interrogation; that anything the defendant says may be used against the defendant in this or any subsequent proceeding; the right to counsel in all procedings, including police line-ups and interrogations; if the defendant appears without counsel and is financially unable to obtain counsel, counsel will be appointed if the defendant has been charged with an offense punishable by incarceration (jail); the right to communicate with defense counsel, and that a continuance will be granted if necessary to permit this; the right to a jury trial or a trial to the court; if the offense is a misdemeanor, the defendant may plead guilty or not guilty, or demand a complaint before entering a plea.

Do I have the right to review the police reports and other evidence the State might have against me?

Yes.  In any case where a right to a jury trial exists, the prosecutor must notify the defendant of any evidence the State has obtained as a result of a search, search and seizure, wiretapping, or any form of electronic or mechanical eavesdropping; any confessions, admissions, or statements in the nature of confessions made by the defendant; any evidence against the defendant discovered as a result of confessions, admissions, or statements in the nature of confessions made by the defendant; or any evidence of lineups, show-ups, or other procedures used to identify the defendant or any other person.  The defendant may, and should obtain copies of all the evidence from the State.

How many times will I have to go to Court before the case is resolved?

This depends on your approach to the case.  In misdemeanor cases and in certain gross misdemeanor cases, you may plead guilty and receive your sentence in one court appearance.  Pleading guilty immediately however, deprives you of the opportunity to review all the evidence and discuss it with a criminal defense lawyer who knows the law and what the facts of your case mean when applied to the law.  Often, the better course of action is to discuss your case with an experienced criminal defense lawyer and examine your options.

It may take several court appearances to finally resolve your case.  Or, if you are unable to resolve your case, to get the case to a trial.  You may hear terms such as “Omnibus” and “Contested Omnibus” as well as “Pretrial Conference.”  Each is a specific type of hearing with a specific goal in mind.

Generally, the “Omnibus” hearing is an opportunity for your attorney to discuss the evidence with the prosecutor and identify potential issues in the case.  If an issue with Constitutional implications exists, the case should be set for a “Contested Omnibus” hearing.  At a “Contested Omnibus” hearing, the defense often moves the court (asks the judge to issue a ruling) to suppress certain evidence or certain statements.  A common issue addressed in “Contested Omnibus” hearings is the legality of a traffic stop.  Eventually, the parameters of the case are set and it is scheduled for a “Pretrial Conference.”

Just as the name implies, a “Pretrial Conference” is an opportunity shortly before the trial of the case for the criminal defense lawyer and the prosecutor to sit down and attempt to negotiate a resolution to the case.  If negotiations are unsuccessful in resolving the case, it is set for trial.  The trial is where the factfinder (judge or jury) determines whether the State has proven the guilty of the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt.  If there is reasonable doubt in the case, then the jury should return a verdict of “Not Guilty.

How do I Choose an Attorney?

The most important legal advice I give those in need can be summarized in three points:

  1. You cannot talk yourself out of trouble.
  2. Never talk to government agents.
  3. Always demand to speak to an attorney.

If you are being interrogated, that means the police suspect you of committing a crime. At that point, the police are not your friends, they do not want to help you, and they do not believe you. Even if you are innocent, you need to follow these three rules. Remember: You cannot talk yourself out of trouble, even if you are telling the truth. Do not talk to the police; they are not interested in helping you. Demand a lawyer, because unless you make a clear demand for an attorney the police do not have to stop interrogating you. Do not be fooled by threats or promises. If you talk, you make their lives easier and your life a nightmare.

Why do I Need a Criminal Defense Attorney?

When you are in trouble with the law, you need an attorney more than at any other time in your life; and you need one who has the skill and guts to fight your case. Just about any lawyer can get you through a guilty plea, but even if you are guilty and want to take responsibility you need to have someone on your side who does not start with the plan of pleading out your case. In order to get the best deal, you have to be willing to fight and you need an attorney who can back you up. And if you want to fight your case all the way, you need an attorney who has the skill and stamina to do it. The bottom line is that whether you plan to accept responsibility or fight the case, in order to give yourself the best possible defense, you need a lawyer who is willing to stand up to the government.

As you look for an attorney, focus on these qualities:

  1. An attorney who has experience doing criminal jury trials.
  2. An attorney who understands police interrogation and investigation methods.
  3. An attorney who tells you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear.

Criminal court is not a place for the family’s favorite lawyer or the general practitioner. Most criminal law trial attorneys see a lot of action in court, but most civil law trial attorneys do not. Instead, civil law trial attorneys do a lot of depositions and writing. These skills are important but they are no substitute for the daily experience of life in criminal courtrooms, and they do not expose an attorney to police tactics. You also need to make sure your attorney does not make false promises just to get your business. If he or she guarantees victory, find someone else. The most an attorney can guarantee you is to give their best effort. Criminal trial attorneys deal with ugly cases and they are used to dealing with uncomfortable facts. An honest criminal trial attorney should have no problem dealing squarely with you and giving you an honest assessment of your case.

What Kind of Criminal Defense Attorney do I Need?

You want experience, skill, and integrity – and you want it all at a bargain price. Unfortunately, that is a rarity. Langemo Law makes an effort to provide affordable pricing, but keep in mind there is a difference between affordable and cut-rate. When your liberty or financial security is at stake, it is not time to shop for the lowest bidder. When you are hiring an attorney you need to make some difficult choices.

  1. Integrity – hire the attorney you trust.
  2. Experience and Skill – look for quality, not just quantity.
  3. Cost – cheap is usually more expensive in the long run.

Integrity is the most important quality to look for. You need an attorney who will listen to you, tell you the truth, and insist that you tell him or her the truth in return. You do not need an attorney who will say whatever they have to in order to get your business, or to make you feel better about your situation or yourself. If your attorney is weak with you, you can expect them to be weak when they are dealing with the government. But if you trust your attorney, that is the best reason to hire them.

Experience and Skill are essential, but you need to consider what kind of experience you are looking for. By asking the right questions, you will be able to determine whether your attorney has the kind of experience you want.

Money is always a big concern, even for the wealthy. However, when it comes to criminal defense, it has been said that cheap is more expensive in the long run and that is often true when it comes to defending a criminal case. If you pay bottom dollar, you may get bottom results. On the other hand, paying a high price does not ensure victory either. Price is always a factor, but it should not be the reason you select one attorney over another. Ask questions about fees and get your questions answered before deciding to hire.