Regardless of the seriousness of the alleged crime, you still have rights if you are arrested, stopped, or being investigated for suspected criminal activity. It’s important to be aware of and take advantage of these rights if you want to protect your future and avoid incriminating yourself.
We’ve explored five potential situations that could occur if you are suspected of a crime, and included guidance on your rights and the best course of action in each scenario.
Being investigated. Police officers may contact you if you are a suspect in a criminal investigation. You may be contacted via telephone and asked to visit the station, where you may be asked to sign a statement or confession. It’s important to never sign a statement without first consulting with an attorney, as these statements are often written in a way that traps you into admitting guilt. If you suspect you may be the target of a criminal investigation, you should contact a lawyer who can advise you on your rights and help you avoid saying or doing something incriminating. If you are eventually arrested, your attorney can arrange the terms of your surrender in a way that reduces your time in custody.
Being stopped. When you are stopped by a law officer on the street, you are not legally required to speak with them. The officer may continue to try and ask you questions in order to trick you into confessing to a crime or saying something incriminating. That’s why it’s a good idea to say nothing when you are stopped by a police officer on the street. Instead, tell them you do not want to speak to them before walking away immediately. If the police officer stops you from leaving, it means you are under arrest. In this situation, you should provide only your contact information and say as little as a possible. Tell the officer you will not answer any more questions without an attorney present.
Getting arrested. If an officer has probable cause to believe you have committed a crime, you may be arrested. An officer cannot stop you from walking away until you are formally detained or arrested, so you can determine whether an arrest has taken place if an officer keeps you from leaving. In order for this arrest to be a lawful arrest, the officer must have established probable cause.
After being arrested for a crime, your first step should be to contact a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer. Your lawyer can explain your rights and help to keep you from incriminating yourself and harming your case. At your arraignment, your attorney may be able to negotiate against the prosecutor’s petition for the judge to set bail. Before your trial, your attorney can investigate the circumstances surrounding your arrest, gather evidence, and consult with expert witnesses. In court, your attorney can work to defend your rights and help you avoid legal consequences like jail or prison time, fines, and a lifelong criminal record.
Being placed in police custody. If you are arrested and placed in custody, the police must read you your Miranda Rights before they question you. Your Miranda Rights include the right to remain silent and the right to have an attorney. After reading your rights, the police may interrogate you and write down your statements. It is critical that you avoid answering any of their questions without first hiring a lawyer. Even if you do not sign a written statement, anything you say can be recorded by the officers and used to harm your case.
Being stopped for drunk driving. Colorado’s implied consent means that you cannot lawfully refuse a blood alcohol test if the officer stops you for a DUI, underage drunk driving, or driving while impaired. Officers must have probable cause to believe you were driving while impaired in order to make a lawful DUI stop. However, they may also stop you at random when operating a DUI sobriety checkpoint. If you are stopped at a DUI checkpoint, you may be required to stop and speak briefly with the officer. If he or she detects signs of intoxication, you may be asked to exit the vehicle and perform a field sobriety test and a BAC test.
It is typically a good idea to comply with BAC tests, as refusing to take the test can result in license suspension and could be used against you in court as indication that you were aware of your intoxication. The best thing you can do after being arrested for a DUI is to contact a Colorado DUI attorney immediately. Your attorney can examine the circumstances surrounding your arrest, and work with you to build the most powerful DUI defense possible.
About the Author:
Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012” and “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012 and 2013 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. She has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.