Do I need a lawyer?
Usually yes—and not just because that’s how we earn a living. When you are charged with a crime, the government is represented by an attorney who studied the law and the rules of court. That attorney also has experience arguing his or her position in front of a judge and jury. A person charged with a crime and does not have an attorney is more vulnerable and more likely to be taken advantage of. The prosecutor will inflate the strength of his or her case to intimidate the person into pleading guilty. You need an attorney on your side, fighting for you the way the prosecutor is fighting for the government.
When am I allowed to talk to a lawyer?
You are allowed to talk to an attorney relatively early in the investigation. You do not need to wait until you are charged with a crime to speak with a lawyer. If you are in police custody, you are entitled to talk to a lawyer. More about this in the “Do I need to talk to the police” section.
Do I need to take field sobriety tests?
When the police pull you over, they are conducting an investigation and trying to gather evidence against you to support any allegations against you. You do NOT need to participate in their investigation. Politely decline to participate in the field sobriety tests. (The more difficult you are, the more ammunition they have against you later.)
Remember—declining to participate in the field sobriety tests will not get you out of an arrest. The police will likely arrest you anyway. What it WILL do is make your defense attorney’s job a bit easier. The less evidence the police have against you the better.
Do I need to talk to the police?
It is the police department’s job to gather evidence against you. They are not trying to help you, even if they say they are. They are building a case against you by gathering the evidence the government needs to find you guilty.
Sometimes basic information is required. For example, if you are driving a car on a public roadway and the police pull you over for a traffic violation, you need to give the officer your driver’s license for identification purposes. You do not, however, need to answer questions like, “Do you know why I pulled you over?” or “Do you know how fast you were going?” or “What’s the speed limit on this road?”
Any statements you make to the police or prosecutor will be used against you—not in your favor. Only speak to the police after talking to your attorney and only if your attorney advises you to do so.
Do I need to let the police search me, my car, or my house/apartment?
The police are allowed to conduct a quick pat-down to make sure you do not have any weapons that could be used to hurt them. The police can also conduct a cursory search of your vehicle under certain limited circumstances. The police cannot search your home without a warrant unless a warrant exception exists. For example, if a police officer knocks on your door and hears someone inside screaming for help, the officer does not need a warrant to enter. If the police conduct an illegal search, the evidence gathered during the search may be suppressed, meaning the state cannot use it to support the charges against you.
When do the police need to read me my rights (Miranda)?
The law says the police must read you your rights when you are subjected to an in-custody interrogation. The police may ask you a few basic questions without reading you the Miranda warning, but the general rule is any time you are in custody (you are not free to leave), the police may not ask you questions related to the facts of the alleged offense without first informing you of your rights.
What are the 36- and 48-hour rule (WI 48-hour rule only)?
After you are arrested in Minnesota, you must appear in front of a judge within 36 hours (not including the day of arrest, Sundays, or holidays).
In both Minnesota and Wisconsin, after you are arrested, a judge must make a probable cause determination within 48 hours. The 48-hour rule includes the day of arrest, weekends, and legal holidays.
*The content contained on this page does not create an attorney-client relationship between the viewer and Repka Law, LLC. Further, do not rely on this information without first consulting with an attorney.