Over 4 million people are arrested in the United States every year. 1.5 million of these arrests are made in California alone. If you have been arrested in San Diego, there are several steps you will undergo and advice you must heed to have your charges dropped or lessened.
Let’s find out how to take full advantage of your legal rights.
California Arrest Procedure
In San Diego, there are several legal procedures that officers must follow when making an arrest. Police Officers in San Diego may only arrest an individual if the following criteria are met:
- Misdemeanor Charges- If being arrested on misdemeanor charges, officers must personally have witnessed the crime committed or have a valid arrest warrant that has been signed by a judge.
- Felony Charges- Police are permitted to arrest an individual on felony charges if they have probable cause that the individual committed the crime. Police may also arrest individuals if they possess a signed witness statement, or as with misdemeanors, a judge-signed warrant.
If any violations were committed by law enforcement during your arrest, you must seek the aid of an experienced criminal defense attorney. Some laws pertain to the legality of police searches of your car, home, or other property as it pertains to your arrest.
- Police are not allowed to search your home or vehicle without a valid warrant, signed by a judge, or probable cause. Probable cause to search your property must be indisputable; for example, an officer would need to see drugs or weapons in plain sight. If you are arrested for anything found during an illegal search, these charges are illegitimate.
When law enforcement does not follow search or arrest protocol, charges can often be considered illegitimate and thrown out of the courtroom.
Ask the Officer Questions
We spoke with San Diego criminal defense attorney Thomas Slattery to get an idea of what questions an individual must ask when facing arrest or criminal charges. If you are being placed under arrest, it is your right to know what is happening. There are several questions you should ask law enforcement. These include:
Am I Being Detained?
If you are only being detained, this means you have not been charged with the crime at hand. Police only have reason to believe that you have information or involvement in the charges. Detainment, simply put, means that officers lack the evidence to arrest and charge you. If detained and no evidence is discovered, then the officers must let you leave.
Am I Under Arrest?
If you are being arrested, you must ask for what crime are you being charged. Knowing this information will help you know if you need to remain silent and what area of defense attorney you will require.
Do You Have a Warrant? May I see it?
If officers tell that yes, you are under arrest, you have the right to demand that they show you a valid, judge-signed warrant. If they do not have the warrant on their person, they may still complete the arrest but must show it as soon as possible.
The simple, most important thing you must do after being arrested is to remain calm. I know that in this high-stress situation, this is easier said than done. Acting erratically will not help your case outcome. You must comply during the arrest process and always remember to exercise your right to remain silent.
Before police interrogation, it is police procedure to read the arrested individual their Miranda Warning. This advises the individual of their right to remain silent and right to an attorney. No matter how much pressure law enforcement puts on you during this interrogation, remember that you do not have to, and should not, answer any of their questions at this time in the process.
Pre-Trial and Arraignment
If charges are found to be illegitimate, they may be thrown out before any pre-trial takes place. The police may release you until your arraignment with a notice to appear in court for lesser charges. However, you may be held in local jail custody for up to 48 hours. At your arraignment, the judge will set bail for your temporary release.
Develop a Plan
Once out on bail, you must set to work gathering information before your day in court. Get organized in all the details surrounding your case. Makes lists, take notes, develop any strategies that may help defend your innocence in the courtroom. Search and gather anything related to your case, including your relationship with the accuser. This can include text messages, audio clips, or social media posts.
Seek Legal Representation
Many people that are convicted of crimes made the mistake of not hiring a professional, knowledgeable, or experienced attorney. Often, if the arrested individual did not commit the crime, they assume they do not need any legal representation whatsoever. This could not be further from the truth. Whether you committed the crime or not is irrelevant in the court of law. What matters is what the prosecution can prove and what your attorney can disprove. You must seek the legal aid of a qualified defense attorney that has experience in your case area of practice.
Take Advantage of Free Consultations
Most attorneys offer new clients a free consultation. Take full advantage of this free consultation by preparing yourself. Bring any evidence, receipts, police reports, or any other information related to your case with you to your free consultation. You should also prepare a list of important questions to help you select the best legal representative for your case.
Examples of questions you should ask include:
- What are the possible outcomes for my case?
- What defense route would you use in my case?
- Do you have time to begin immediately working on my defense case?
- Are you confident if we go to trial?
In addition to asking questions, you should also gauge and take note of how you feel during the consultation. You need to hire an attorney that you can be honest with, communicate with, and most importantly, are comfortable with. This is the person who will be representing you in court and determine the outcome of your case. Choose Wisely.
Defense Attorney Legal Fees
The cost of hiring an attorney will vary based on several factors. These factors include:
- The complexity of your case
- The experience of the attorney
- Whether or not the case goes to trial
- The seriousness of the charges
Attorneys often either charge a flat fee for particular cases or require a retainer fee and hourly rate. For example, some defense attorneys charge up to $3000 to represent you against misdemeanor charges. Flat fees are not common and often have underlying clauses. Hourly fees range greatly and can cost anywhere from $150-$700 an hour.
Do Your Research
When searching for an attorney, you can also visit the State Bar of California’s website for more detailed information. This resource provides you the opportunity to search for lawyers in different practice areas, read reviews, and check for any violations on the lawyer’s behalf. Do not hire an attorney who has been reprimanded by the bar for any illegal activity.
Remain Calm, Silent, and Seek Legal Advice
In conclusion, if you are under arrest, the best course of action is to know your rights, remain calm, stay silent, and seek legal representation. You must follow the aforementioned steps after you have been arrested to ensure the most favorable outcome.