Know your constitutional rights

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IF YOU ARE INVOLVED IN AN ACCIDENT

  • STOP: The failure to stop after being involved in an accident can result in criminal consequences. Stop your vehicle at the point nearest of the accident scene.
  • INJURIES: If anyone is injured, call 911. Protect the scene and those involved from further damage or injury.
  • CALL A POLICE OFFICER (Dial 911): State and local police officers are trained accident investigators. Their expertise may be invaluable in establishing the reason the accident occurred.
  • GATHER INFORMATION, TAKE PHOTOS, AND WRITE IT DOWN: Don’t trust your memory. Write down the facts, including the names and addresses of witnesses. IF YOU HAVE A CAMERA TAKE AS MANY PHOTOS OF THE ACCIDENT SCENE AND THE VEHICLES INVOLVED. Anyone involved in an automobile accident is required by law to show you their driver’s license, vehicle registration number, insurance carrier, insurance policy number, and name and address of their local insurance agents.
  • BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU SAY: Do not admit fault even if you think the accident was your fault. Statements made during the excitement of an accident may be misconstrued or later misquoted by others.
  • SEE YOUR DOCTOR: Serious injuries do not always result in immediate pain or bloodshed.
  • CONSULT THE LAW OFFICE OF RICHARD CASTILLO IMMEDIATELY: The sooner your attorney is brought into the matter, the better he can advise and protect your rights and obtain statements from witnesses while their memories are fresh and assure that the true facts are preserved. Get your attorney’s advice before giving any interviews or statements. IF YOU DO NOT HAVE A DOCTOR, YOUR ATTORNEY CAN ASSIST YOU IN OBTAINING MEDICAL CARE.
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    IF YOU ARE BEING INVESTIGATED, CHARGED OR ARRESTED FOR A CRIME OR DUI?

    Should You Answer the Officers Questions when you are being investigated, charged or arrested for a crime?

    Never argue with a law enforcement officer even if you think you know your rights. Save your legal arguments for the court. If you are being accused of a crime, you should be polite and know that you do NOT have to answer any questions without a lawyer present. You will obviously draw more suspicion to yourself if you are not respectful or if you do not answer questions.  Therefore, it is wise to answer any questions politely and provide vague information rather than specifics. For example, you can give your name and date of birth.  However, you should not disclose any information that could incriminate you.  (Example: I had two beers. I just left from the Cardinals game.  I haven’t smoked weed in a few days.)

    In a DUI investigation, avoid taking the Field Sobriety Tests, HGN Test, and PBT Test.

    You have the right to refuse a field sobriety test which generally consists of the Walk-and-Turn, One-Leg Stand, Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) and Preliminary Breath Test (PBT). These tests can easily be used against you even if you think you can pass them. Your refusal might frustrate the police officer but you have that right to refuse.

    In the Walk-and-Turn test, the subject is directed to take nine steps, heel-to-toe, along a straight line. After taking the steps, the suspect must turn on one foot and return in the same manner in the opposite direction. The police officer looks for eight indicators of impairment: if the suspect cannot keep balance while listening to the instructions, begins before the instructions are finished, stops while walking to regain balance, does not touch heel-to-toe, steps off the line, uses arms to balance, makes an improper turn, or takes an incorrect number of steps. NHTSA research indicates that 79 percent of individuals who exhibit two or more indicators in the performance of the test will have a BAC of 0.08 or greater (Stuster and Burns, 1998).

    In the One-Leg Stand test, the suspect is instructed to stand with one foot approximately six inches off the ground and count aloud by thousands (One thousand-one, one thousand-two, etc.) until told to put the foot down. The officer times the subject for 30 seconds. The officer looks for four indicators of impairment, including swaying while balancing, using arms to balance, hopping to maintain balance, and putting the foot down. NHTSA research indicates that 83 percent of individuals who exhibit two or more such indicators in the performance of the test will have a BAC of 0.08 of greater (Stuster and Burns, 1998).

    In the HGN test, the police officer observes the eyes of a suspect as the suspect follows a slowly moving object such as a pen or small flashlight, horizontally with his or her eyes.  The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus is an involuntary jerking of the eye that occurs naturally as the eyes gaze to the side. Under normal circumstances, nystagmus occurs when the eyes are rotated at high peripheral angles. However, when a person is impaired by alcohol, nystagmus is exaggerated and may occur at lesser angles. An alcohol-impaired person will also often have difficulty smoothly tracking a moving object.

    The Preliminary Breath Test is used to determine if alcohol is present in your blood when you are being investigated for a DUI on the side of the road.  It is not admissible in court.  A police officer might even say in passing, “Oh, this can’t be used against you in court” or “This doesn’t come into court” or “This won’t hurt you in court.”  Nothing could be further from the truth.  If alcohol is determined to be in your system by the PBT, it goes towards determining whether, under the totality of circumstances, there is probable cause to arrest you.

    Is it Legal For the Police to Search a Driver’s Vehicle?

    Police officers are allowed to confiscate anything illegal that is in plain view when they approach your car during a traffic stop.  It is always wise to keep things out of plain view. In order for a police officer to search your car, or to look in the glove compartment, or trunk, he must have probable cause or a reasonable suspicion that he will find something illegal. If he does not have a reasonable suspicion, then he will have to get a search warrant to search your car (which also requires a reasonable suspicion). If you were pulled over for a broken headlight, for example, it would be difficult for an officer to justify the need to search your vehicle. However, most drivers allow police to search their cars, and if you consent to a police search, it is legal for him or her to do so. You should never consent to the police searching your vehicle. You do not want to be argumentative with the police officer, you can just say nothing, which is the same as not consenting, or you could say that you would like to talk to a lawyer before answering questions or before allowing a search.

    When Must Your Miranda Rights Be Read to You?

    Police do not need to read you your Miranda rights until they have you in custody. The police can ask you questions and if you answer the questions, then your answers can be used as evidence in a court. When police are questioning you on the side of the road, you do have the right to be silent, but they do not have to inform you of that right.  It is possible to have a conversation with police while remaining polite and respectful without disclosing information which refers to any alcohol you may have had or any other incriminating information. Only after you are under arrest and in police custody do the police have to read you your Miranda rights. At that point, you should ask to speak to a lawyer and not say anything else.