Hiring an attorney
+ Why should I hire a criminal defense attorney?
Navigating the criminal justice system alone can be overwhelming. Through experience and knowledge of the criminal justice system, hiring a good criminal defense lawyer may help to: get your charges dismissed, reduce your criminal charge to a lesser offense (e.g. reduce a felony to a misdemeanor), lessen the severity of the punishment for the crime, help you develop a sound defense strategy, and/or obtain an acquital at trial. A criminal defense attorney advocates for your rights at all stages of your case, including investigating police procedures, determining whether the charges are supported by evidence, and appearing for and representing you in court.
+ What should I look for in hiring a defense attorney?
Finding the right attorney can mean the difference between a reduced sentence, dismissal, acquittal, and a conviction. Many criminal defense attorneys offer free consultations. In discussing your case with a criminal defense attorney, look for someone who gives you all of your options and is realistic about the potential outcomes based on the unique circumstances of your case. Be cautious of an attorney who guarantees or promises a favorable outcome-- a good defense attorney will agressively advocate for you, but cannot force the hand of a prosecutor or judge (or jury). A good attorney should be responsive, regularly updating you and keeping you in the loop. You should look for an attorney who is upfront with you in regards to fees and the scope of services.
+ How much do defense attorneys cost?
Many criminal defense attorneys offer upfront flat fees. This means that you pay upfront before the attorney begins representing you. The flat fee covers your representation through the duration of your case. The upside of a flat fee is that you know the total cost upfront, and will not receive regular bills for your attorney's time. Fees widely vary depending on the severity and circumstances of your case. For a Connecticut criminal defense attorney, fees start roughly at $1500-$2500.
Know your rights
+ What should I know about dealing with police?
Knowing your rights and maintaining your composure will go a long way in police encounters. Generally:
- Be polite
- Be respectful
- Don’t resist (avoid escalation)
- When in doubt, reach out to an attorney (fight your battles in the court room)
- Take photos of any injuries
- Write down your version of events as soon as possible, and note any witnesses
+ What should I do if I'm questioned while on foot?
Remember: You don’t have to answer any questions. This is important because anything you say may lead to your arrest, and can be used as evidence against you in court. Use your right to remain silent.
- Politely ask if you’re free to leave.
- In situations where police have a reason to believe a weapon is concealed, police may “pat down” the outer layer of your clothing. Don’t resist, but make clear you don’t consent to any search.
- If you don’t consent to a search, police need probable cause to conduct any searches of you or your property.
+ What should I do if I'm pulled over?
Connecticut is one of many states with a "Stop and Identify" law. This means that any person who is stopped while operating a motor vehicle must provide identification, proof of insurance, and vehicle registration when requested by an officer.
- Other than identifying yourself, you don’t have to answer any questions.
- In some situations, police can search your vehicle without a warrant (e.g. whatever police can see in plain sight, the smell of drugs). To protect yourself later, you should make it clear that you do not consent to a search. It is not lawful for police to arrest you simply for refusing to consent to a search.
- If under suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, know the difference between a field sobriety test and chemical test. You are not legally required to take any field sobriety tests (e.g. one leg stand, alphabet recitation, walk and turn, etc.). However, in contrast, refusal to take the chemical test (e.g. breath, blood, or urine), usually back at the police station, can result in serious legal consequences. You do, however, have the right to consult an attorney before submitting to or refusing the chemical test.
+ What should I do if police come to my home?
Police may not enter your home unless they have search warrant signed by a judge. If police have a warrant, politely ask to see it.
- If you consent to police entering your home and conducting a search, they generally have broad latitude to look around, so it’s best not to consent to a search.
- In some emergency situations, police may be allowed to enter your home without a warrant. For example, if they hear someone screaming for help or are in pursuit of a suspect who enters your home.
+ What should I do if I'm arrested?
- Don’t resist or be combative.
- Use your right to remain silent because your statements will be used as evidence against you. You’re under no obligation to help the police convict you of a crime.
- The police only need to Mirandize you when you’re taken into custody and before you’re interrogated – if they violate this, any statements you make must be suppressed, but your case will not get dismissed (despite popular belief).
- Use your right to an attorney, and if you can’t afford one, the government must provide one.
- Don’t answer any questions without speaking to an attorney first. Don’t give any explanations, excuses, or stories – this could inadvertently get you in more trouble. You will not talk your way out of an arrest.
- Don’t talk to any other inmates about your alleged crime because it can be used against you as evidence in court.
+ What are my Miranda rights?
Miranda rights arose from a 1966 Supreme Court Case (Miranda v. Arizona) establishing the rights a person has when they are in police custody. If you are taken into police custody, your Miranda rights must be explained to you by law enforcement officials before you can be interrogated. Specifically, they must tell you these four things: (1) you have the right to remain silent, (2) anything you say can/will be used against you in a court of law, (3) you have the right to an attorney, and (4) if you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you. The failure of police to inform you of your rights will result in the inadmissability of any statements you make. If you believe your rights have been violated, speak with your attorney, because this can significantly influence your case and could lead to a dismissal of charges against you.
+ When am I entitled to an attorney?
Your right to counsel is rooted in the 6th amendment of the U.S. Constitution. A court case in 1963 (Gideon v. Wainwright) established that defendants who are unable to afford an attorney are still entitled to legal representation. In general, the right to counsel is triggered when defendants are charged with a felony or midemeanor which could result in imprisonment. In other words, if you are cited for a payable citation for which no jail time could result (e.g. speeding ticket), you are not entitled to an attorney. However, this means that the government is not required to provide an attorney for you if you cannot afford one. You always retain the right to consult with or hire an attorney on your own.