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Attorney Stephen H. Gordon
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San Antonio, Texas
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Attorney Stephen H. Gordon
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KNOW YOUR RIGHTS IN ADVANCE

If you are ever accused of, arrested for, or charged with a crime, it is essential that you know your rights in advance. If you don't know these rights, or don't assert them properly, you could do serious damage to yourself and hurt your case.

YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT

The most important right to understand is your 5th amendment right to remain silent. This means that you do not have to answer any questions from any law enforcement official, no matter what the officer tells you. The only exception is a duty to provide your name and identification.

DO NOT FALL FOR POLICE OFFICER TRICKS

Be careful of police officers who try to get you to say something incriminating by trying to chit-chat with you in a friendly manner. Common tricks are for an officer to tell you he just wants to hear your side of the story, or wants to give you a chance to clear your name. If the officer really wants to give you a chance to help yourself out, he will let you call an attorney, and have the lawyer there with you before any questioning begins.

Some officers will indicate to you that getting a lawyer involved will only complicate matters, and prevent them from offering you a deal for reduction of charges, or a reduced sentence. In fact, the opposite is true. The only way to ensure that the police are going to keep their word in regards to any "deal" is for an attorney to get the deal in writing.

Some officers will try to trick you into thinking that you must comply with their requests. They take advantage of the average person's natural inclination to want to comply with authority figures. It is hard to resist if you are not a trained expert. Its especially difficult when police officers lie to you, which they have a legal right to do in certain situations.

A FRIENDLY ENCOUNTER WITH POLICE CAN TURN INTO INTERROGATION

This is very common when you get pulled over in your vehicle. An officer may just start asking you questions one after the other, like where are you coming from and where are you going to. In your average traffic ticket case, this is usually no big deal. However, if you have had a drink or two, this friendly question and answer session could really be the beginning of a criminal investigation.

Some people think that their statements cannot be used against them unless an officer reads them their "Miranda" rights. This is generally true if you are the subject of a "custodial interrogation". However, there is an exception to this rule for "consensual encounters" with the police. If you ever feel as if the encounter with a police officer is changing from a friendly encounter into a criminal inquiry, then you have the right to end the discussion and refuse to answer any more questions.

ASSERT YOUR 5th AMENDMENT RIGHT, AND ASK FOR A LAWYER

If you want to make sure that no statements are used against you later, then tell the officer you want to assert your 5th amendment right not to answer questions Also, request to speak to a lawyer. If the officer still persists in asking you questions, politely continue to refuse.

It is important to always remain polite when speaking with an officer, even if he or she is rude with you. Remember, the police always have the advantage against the average citizen out on the street. The only way to get an even playing field is when you get the officer inside the courtroom.

YOU DO NOT HAVE TO CONSENT TO A SEARCH WITHOUT A WARRANT

You also do not have to consent to any searches of yourself, your car, or your home, unless the police already have an arrest of search warrant. That does not mean you should physically resist if the police insist on conducting an unlawful search. If this happens, just stay out of the way so you don't get assaulted by the police, or charged with some other crime, like interference with a police investigation. But you do not have to verbally consent or sign any consent forms and make their job easier.

DWI CASES

          YOU DO NOT HAVE TO PERFORM ANY FIELD SOBRIETY TESTS

You also do not have to agree to perform any field sobriety tests. These tests are rigged against you anyway. You may think you can do a good job on these tests, but even one small mistake can lead the officer to make a note that you exhibited a "clue" of intoxication. You do have to move and stand where an officer tells you once you are pulled over, but you do not have to lift your leg up in the air, or try to walk in a straight line. If you are unsure of what is being asked of you, try to clarify what the officer is doing. You can ask if this is something you have to do, or if the movement is optional. The officer is supposed to tell you the truth at this point.

          YOU DO NOT HAVE TO TAKE THE BREATHALYZER TEST, BUT . . .

You also do not have to take a breathalyzer test either. But a word of warning here -- under Texas law, your refusal to take the breathalyzer could result in an automatic suspension of your license, and even arrest if you have already demonstrated evidence of being intoxicated. Your refusal may also be brought up in court later and be used against you.

Also, under the new "no refusal" rules, if you refuse to take a breathalyzer, the police can usually get a special "blood draw warrant" from a judge which authorizes them to take a blood sample from you. If so, the police can actually physically restrain you in order to draw your blood. If you find yourself in this situation, it is best not to physically resist and make the situation worse.

This a difficult decision to make, and it does have some risks, but we generally advise people not to take the breathalyzer test, because it is much easier to fight a DWI case if there are no field sobriety tests or no breath test results. Since there is always a chance that the police may still not take a blood test, you may end up in a better position by refusing.

IF YOU ARE ARRESTED, YOU STILL HAVE THE RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT

Just because you are arrested for a crime does not mean you lose your rights. You still retain the right to remain silent at this point. An officer may again try to take advantage of your lack of knowledge. For example, in a DWI case, he may try to ask you a series of questions about how much you had to drink, when you last ate, and what time you think it is. These questions may seem routine, but they can be used by the police to show how intoxicated you were when they pulled you over.

You may also be led to an interrogation room where an officer may again ask you for your side of the story. This entire encounter may be being videotaped without your knowledge. Even things you say or do when the officer leaves the room could be used against you. If the interrogation is not being videotaped and the officer is just making handwritten notes of the encounter, this can be even worse. He may be putting in only the information that he thinks will help him get a conviction against you.

You should also be careful about talking to other inmates in the jail. They may be snitches planted by the police to try to get you to talk about the charges against you. Also, be careful what you say on the jail phone lines to a friend or family member. All the calls are monitored and recorded.

POSTING BOND

Your #1 concern if you are arrested is how quick you can get out of jail. This is done by posting bond. It may take awhile for a bond to be set in your case. You must first go in front of a special judge called a magistrate. It takes longer to bond out if you are arrested on a weekend.

If you are arrested on a misdemeanor first time offense, you may be eligible for something called a "personal recognizance" (PR) bond. This requires you to put up approximately $80 to bond yourself out.

If you are no eligible for a PR bond, you want to call a family member of friend to help get the bond process started. They would need to contact a bond company to help arrange for the paperwork to get started, and to put some money down on your case.

Most bond companies want you to pay 10% of the bond amount. Therefore, if your bond is $10,000, you would have to pay $1000. Most bond companies will not require you to pay the entire 10% at once. They will require 3-5% down to get started.

CALL OUR OFFICE AS SOON AS YOU GET OUT OF JAIL

It is very important to speak to an attorney as soon as you get out of jail. There are important deadlines that may be expiring if you do not act right away. For example, in a DWI case, you only have 15 days to request a hearing to avoid a driver's license suspension.

WE CAN EXPLAIN YOUR RIGHTS TO YOU


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