Being arrested can be a very frightening and confusing experience. Knowing what your rights are at least gives you some guidelines to follow. Remember, though: your rights only protect you if you use them.
Under certain situations, police have a right to approach and question you. When a law enforcement officer approaches you, you should consider yourself under arrest when you are no longer free to walk away from him. The officer does not have to tell you that you are under arrest for you to be under arrest, nor does he have to have an arrest warrant to arrest you.
When you are under arrest or merely detained in connection with the investigation of a crime, the officer should inform you of the reason for your arrest or detention; however, from a practicable stand point, sometimes officers do not. They also do not tell you that you have a right to speak to an attorney and that anything you say to the officer can and will be used against you to prove that you committed the alleged crime.
Often when the police have you in custody, they want to question you concerning your involvement in the crime that they are investigating. It is very important that you remember that you do not have to answer any questions. If you want to answer the officer's questions, you must remember that anything you tell the police officer will be put in a report that the officer will prepare and that your statement may be used against you if you are charged with the crime. Your statement could hurt your case. Remember, you will not get in trouble by telling the police that you want to speak to your attorney before answering any questions. Even if you are not guilty and want to tell the police everything you know so that you will be cleared of all charges, you may be better off contacting an attorney first and letting him do the talking for you. Once you tell the police that you want to speak to your attorney, they should give you an opportunity to call your attorney or to call a friend to help you get an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, you have a right to have an attorney appointed to represent you, and you should tell the officer that you cannot afford an attorney and that you want an attorney appointed before you speak to him. However, only the Court can appoint you an attorney and courts only meet during business hours Monday through Friday. Also, once you have requested an attorney the officer should not ask you any other questions, nor should you make any statements to the officer until your attorney has arrived.
Although you have a constitutional right to represent yourself in court, it is not always good to do so. Even judges and lawyers, if accused of a crime, usually hire other lawyers to defend them. If you should decide that you must answers questions, whether with or without an attorney, you should always tell the truth. A lie will only get you in more trouble. A lie can be used against you in court to show that you are not truthful or that you were covering up your involvement in the crime. Also, do not try to bargain with the police. Even though the police promise to take it easy if you will cooperate and answer their questions, the police do not have the authority to make deals; that authority belongs to the district attorney. If you want to bargain, demand that a district attorney be present and bargain with him. Better yet, call your attorney and let him deal with the district attorney. If a deal is offered, get it in writing or do not agree to it.
You must remember your rights at all times. Because of the pressure and confusion that you may feel, it is very difficult to think properly and even though you try, you may not be able to properly explain yourself. You should call your attorney before doing anything else. You should call your lawyer even before you call a bail bondsman. A lawyer can help you answer the officer's questions and can also help you get out of jail.
To get out of jail, you must either post a bond or, with the approval of a judge, you may be able to get out of jail on your own recognizance – this means you are released from jail on your promise that you will appear in court at the appointed time for your trial. To get out on your own recognizance you do not have to pay any money. If you cannot get out on your own recognizance, you must post a bond. This bond is usually set by a judge and can be met either by posting a property bond or a commercial bond.
A property bond is met when one or more persons owning real property (real estate) in the county where the bond is set produces tax records (usually the annual county tax assessment), and the value of the property pledged is 2 ½ times the bond amount. [example: $10,000.00 bond would require real property valued at $25,000.00] There is no cash required for a property bond.
A personal surety bond does not cost you any money. A commercial bond means that you pay a bondsman a sum of case, usually 10% of the amount of your bond. The bondsman will then post a bond for you. You will not get back the money you pay a bondsman. Remember, if you do not appear in court, you will not only be arrested, you or the person who bonds you out will lose the cash or property that was posted as bond. A commercial bondsman will track you down and have you arrested.
Need an attorney in central Alabama? Call Tom Azar at (334) 233-3742.