In many cases, a person is subject to an investigation prior to an arrest. If you are a person of interest, law enforcement agents may ask to speak with you informally or they may attempt to search you or your property. You may feel that by talking to police, you can explain things and avoid charges, or by letting them search, you can be sure that they will find nothing to incriminate you. Some people are hesitant to invoke their right to silence and their right to legal counsel, because they think that asserting their rights will make them look guilty. However, insisting upon your rights does not make you look guilty; it makes you look smart. If you are being investigated for a crime you should immediately do two things: keep your mouth shut and call a lawyer.
You do not have to wait until you have been arrested to hire a lawyer. As soon as you are aware that you are being investigated, retain the services of an experience criminal defense attorney.
You never have to consent to a search. If police have a lawful search warrant, you cannot prevent them from searching the property specified in the warrant, but you do not have to grant them permission to do so. If police conduct a search without a warrant, probable cause, or consent, any evidence they obtain becomes inadmissible in court. Your attorney may also be able to challenge probable cause to demonstrate unreasonable search and seizure in violation of your Fourth Amendment rights. If police or investigators ask if they can have a look around, ask to see a warrant and call your lawyer immediately.
The best way to know if you are in custody is to simply ask, "Am I being detained, or am I free to go?" If police have no grounds to hold you, they should let you go. You may be stopped or detained without an arrest, and even though you will likely not be informed of this right, you do not have to talk to police, nor should you. If you are placed under arrest, you should be informed of your rights, a process commonly referred to as the Miranda warning or being read your rights. You be taken into custody and likely transported to the county jail. At this point, it will be obvious that you have been arrested. Call a lawyer who can help with bond hearings and who can provide legal counsel during interrogation and questioning.
In order to preserve a defendant's right to an attorney, the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System provides a court-appointed public defender to those who cannot afford one. However, the court's method of determining your ability to afford a lawyer likely differs drastically from yours. You must be declared indigent in order to get a public defender, a process that entails complex paperwork and a close evaluation of your assets. If you were able to make bail—even through a loan from a friend or family member—then the court will typically find that you are able to afford a lawyer.
Oklahoma law defines a misdemeanor as any offense punishable by a year or less in county jail, and a felony as an offense punishable by a year or more in the state penitentiary. The severity of the offense with which you are charged in part determines your bond amount and the penalties of conviction of a felony are typically much more severe than misdemeanor penalties. A felony conviction can also have a lifelong impact on gun ownership rights, voting rights, and professional licensure. However, when it comes to representing you in court, your lawyer should aggressively pursue the best outcome regardless of whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or felony.
For some people, record of their past offenses has a lingering and continuing negative impact on their lives. They may have difficulty finding a job, getting a loan, obtaining a housing lease, and more. Oklahoma law allows for the expungement of court records following a deferred sentence, and it allows those convicted of misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies to obtain a record expungement under certain conditions. Read more about clearing your record on our expungements page.
The law offices of Phillips & Associates provide several avenues for you to get the help you need in finding answer to your questions and in securing legal defense representation.
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