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Criminal Defense Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can the police search my home?

Police officers need a warrant before they can enter your home. A warrant is an order issued by a judge authorizing police officers to search a particular place or arrest a specific person. There are two types of warrants—an arrest warrant and a search warrant. An arrest warrant authorizes police officers to search the person named in the arrest warrant, and the area right around that person. A search warrant authorizes police officers to search any area described in the warrant, including containers large enough to hold evidence of what they are looking for under the warrant. If police officers do not have a warrant, then they can only enter your home if you give them consent to enter or if there is an emergency.

Q: Can the police search my car?

It depends on the facts and circumstances. Unlike searching your home, police officers do not need a warrant to search your car. An officer can search your car if he or she has a reasonable belief that there is evidence or there are illegal items in your car. Additionally, an officer can search your car after you have been arrested. However, they generally cannot search your trunk or other locked compartment of your vehicle. There are instances where police officers ask to search a person’s vehicle. If you find yourself in this type of situation, do not give consent. Instead, tell the officer that you have been advised not to consent to police searches of any kind. Even if the officer warns you that he or she will get a warrant or call for a drug-sniffing dog, just remain calm and continue to refuse to consent to the search.

Q: If I am under investigation, do I have to talk to the police?

No. You do not have to:

  • Participate in the investigation;
  • Answer questions pursuant to the investigation; or
  • Make a statement as part of the investigation.

If an officer requests your personal information, however, you will need to provide your real name, address, age and date of birth. You should not provide any other information.

Q: What information do I have to give to the police if I am arrested?

A police officer may arrest you if he or she reasonably believes that you are committing a crime. If you are arrested, you must give officers your real name, address, age, and date of birth. You do not have to answer any other questions or provide any other information.

Q: What are my rights while under arrest?

Also known as Miranda warnings, the following information should be given to you when you are taken into custody, but before you are questioned:

  1. You have the right to remain silent.
    • Do not talk to anyone, including detectives or State’s Attorneys about the incident that led to your arrest or about any other incident that is under investigation.
  2. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.
    • Any statement you make can be used as evidence against you if you are charged. Do not answer any questions about the incident or make any kind of statement. Always refuse to answer any questions and ask for a lawyer.
  3. You have the right to an attorney.
    • You have the right to have an attorney meet with you while you are under arrest. Be sure to contact a lawyer or have your family contact a lawyer as soon as possible.
  4. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you.
    • Courts will appoint public defenders to represent people who are charged with crimes but cannot afford to pay a private attorney. A public defender is usually appointed at the first court date.
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