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What Can I do if I am Stopped by Police for Questioning?

Stop, remain calm, and be polite. If you are stopped by police you should politely ask them if you are free to leave. If the police do not answer you, keep asking politely. Chances are if the officer is refusing to tell you if you are free to leave, you probably are. You have a right to remain silent, and you can always refuse to talk to the police. However, you are required to give your identification information if asked. If the officer tells you that you are free to leave or that you are not under arrest, you should be very calm and just walk away.

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Do I Have to Talk to the Police?

NO. If the police want to talk to you, you can always refuse. You have a right to remain silent. You should be polite and inform the officer that you wish to remain silent. If the officer is giving you a hard time, ask if you are under arrest. If he does not inform you that you are under arrest, you are free to leave. Police will sometimes try to intimidate people to get them to stay and talk to them. You are always free to leave unless the officer informs you that you are under arrest. If he does arrest you or has a warrant for your arrest, you will not be free to leave, but you can always exercise your right to remain silent. Even if the officer says he just wants to talk to you, you can and probably should exercise your right to remain silent.

Many times people think if they give an explanation to police that they won’t be arrested. This is usually a bad idea. If the police have a warrant or probable cause to arrest you, they will usually arrest you no matter what you say. Police are also allowed to lie to you about evidence in order to get you to confess or admit to certain facts related to an investigation. Approximately 25% of all wrongful conviction cases where people have been exonerated by DNA evidence contain a false confession. Police will often lie to people informing them that they will put in a good word with the DA or Judge if they confess. This is a trick they are allowed to use to get people to confess, and it often works. If police are looking to question you about a case, you should exercise your right to remain silent and ask for an attorney.

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Can I Reschedule a Court Date?

In most cases, it is possible to get a court date rescheduled. It may require you to appear early or immediately after your court date. It is much easier to get a court date rescheduled if you have any attorney. Your attorney can file a motion for a continuance which outlines the reasons why the court date should be rescheduled. Sometimes your lawyer may also be able to talk to the court and the prosecutor and ask if the case can be heard earlier than the scheduled court date. You should always inform your lawyer of any possible scheduling conflicts as soon as you are aware of them. The earlier you ask the court to reschedule a matter the better the chances are that it will be reschedule. Many times witnesses will be subpoenaed for hearings and trial, so the court will want to know in advance so witnesses can be accommodated. You should never miss a court date without getting approval from the court. If you miss a court date, a bench warrant will usually be issued for your arrest. You should contact your lawyer immediately to recall a bench warrant if one is issued. The most important thing to remember is to always keep the court informed of your whereabouts and possible scheduling issues. Many Judges are very accommodating if they are informed of your situation and you have valid reasons for delaying your case.

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What Can I do if I am Stopped at a DWI / DUI Checkpoint?

If you drive through a checkpoint, you are required to stop if ordered to do so by police. You should immediately ask if you are free to leave. You have an absolute right to refuse to answer any questions, including questions regarding where you are going, where you have been, and if you have been drinking. You also have the right to an attorney if police are going to question you. You should always be polite and calm when dealing with police. Just politely tell the officer that you do not want to answer any questions, and ask if you are free to leave. If the police do not let you leave, you should ask for an attorney and refuse to answer any questions. You cannot be arrested for refusing to speak to officers. However, you are required to provide officers with your driver’s license and insurance information if you are pulled over.

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What Can I do if Asked to Perform Tests Related to DWI / DUI Stop?

If you are taken into custody or asked to perform any sobriety tests or the breath test, you can politely refuse. Your driver’s license can be suspended for refusing testing, but you will be entitled to a hearing prior to the suspension taking effect. There are also increased penalties if you blood alcohol is above a certain level. If you blood alcohol level is .15 BAC or above, Louisiana law requires that you must serve 2 days in jail. Many people do not realize this when they take the test. There is also a law in Louisiana which makes it a crime to refuse the breath test if you have refused to take it on two prior occasions.

If you are arrested for DWI after going through a check point, you should contact a lawyer immediately. When you are arrested for DWI in Louisiana, your license will be suspended. However, you can ask for a hearing prior to this suspension, and you may have grounds for having the suspension recalled. If you are arrested for DWI at a checkpoint you should contact a lawyer immediately, Louisiana law only gives you 15 days to ask for a hearing regarding the suspension of your driver’s license.

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What Should I do I do if I Missed Court?

If you have missed a court date, the court has probably issued a bench warrant for your arrest. You can be arrested if you are located by the police, and you will be held in jail until you are brought to court. After a certain amount of time, the court may also forfeit your bond which will require you to post a new bond if arrested. You may also lose any property or money that was posted on the original bond. If you have missed court, you should contact a lawyer immediately. You may have a defense to the bench warrant and/or your lawyer may be able to successfully argue to the court to take no action on the warrant. Often times, bench warrants will be issued when someone was not transported from jail to court or when the defendant has not received actual notice of the court date. Your lawyer can investigate how and why the bench warrant was issued and if it was issued properly. If the warrant was erroneously issued, it will usually benefit the defendant. One way of making sure you do not miss court dates, is to always make sure the court and your attorney have your current address. Notices are often mailed to the wrong addresses because defendants do not update their information with the Court after they move. You should always keep you information current with the court, so all notices for court dates will be received.

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What can I Have Expunged from My Record?

If you have been arrested for a felony or misdemeanor, you should be able to expunge the arrest record if the case against you was dismissed or the prosecution failed to charge you within a certain time period (statute of limitations has run). If you have a conviction for a felony, you may be able to have it expunged if you were sentenced under C.Cr.P. 893. You can only expunge one felony conviction in your lifetime and you must have successfully completed all conditions of probation that were imposed pursuant to C.Cr.P. 893. Your felony conviction cannot be for a crime of violence. There are also a few drug crimes that can be expunged even if you were not sentenced under 893.

If your misdemeanor case was dismissed or the statute of limitations has run, you should be able to have the arrest expunged. If you have a misdemeanor conviction you can have it expunged 5 years after you have successfully completed your sentence. If you were sentenced under C.Cr.P. 894 for a misdemeanor conviction, you will not have to wait 5 years. If you participated in a pretrial diversion program for a misdemeanor DWI offense and it was then dismissed, you will have to wait 5 years before applying for and expungement.

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Do I Have to Let the Police Search My Car?

NO. You have a right to refuse a search of your car, but you should always be calm and polite when dealing with the police. Usually the police need a warrant to search your car unless you consent or they have probable cause. If they have probable cause to believe evidence of a crime is in your vehicle, they do not need a search warrant. For example, if police see drug paraphernalia in the car, they can search without a warrant. Prior to searching your vehicle, police may ask you if you have any contraband or illegal items in the car. You never have to answer this question. You have a right to an attorney if questioned by the police and also a right to remain silent. If you do not wish to answer any question, tell the officer you want a lawyer and do not want to answer any questions. However, you should give your driver’s license and insurance information if asked. If police search your car without a warrant, probable cause, and your consent, the search is more than likely illegal.

They may still ask for your consent or ask you to sign a “consent to search” form. You can and should still refuse, but you cannot use any type of force or coercion to prevent them from searching your car. If they have probable cause to search your vehicle, politely inform them that you do not consent to the search and stay out of their way. You are never required to sign a form consenting to a search event if the police have justification for the search.

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Do I Have to Allow Police to Search My Home?

Police must have a search warrant to search or even enter your home. However, if you consent or they have exigent circumstances they will need to get a warrant. They can only get a warrant if they present a sworn statement to a judge or magistrate outlining that there is probable cause that evidence of a crime is in the home. Exigent circumstances are situation where it may not be feasible to wait to get a warrant. Exigent circumstances can include hot pursuit of a suspect or situations where it is reasonable to believe that evidence in the home will be lost or destroyed before a warrant can be obtained.

Often times, police knock on someone’s front door without having a warrant. This is allowed because it is not a search. If the police are knocking on your do, you do not have to answer, and if you answer, you don’t have to let them in. If they do not have a warrant, they are just like anyone else knocking on the door, and you would not have to answer. If you answer and police are asking for consent to search your home, you have a right to refuse. You can also refuse to sign a form consenting to a search. Even if police tell you they will search without your consent, you can still refuse, but you should not use any type of physical force. It is very difficult to challenge an illegal search in court if there is consent. You should always be polite and calm when dealing with the police. If they are going to search without your consent, do not get in their way. You only have to inform them that you do not consent to raise the issue with the court. If they give you any paperwork to sign, you may wish to write on it that you do not consent to the search to document your objection.

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If I am a Convicted Felon, Can I Own a Gun?

If you have been convicted of only one felony, it may be possible to have your right to possess a firearm in Louisiana restored. It depends on several factors which can include the type of offense, the date of offense, and successful completion of your sentence. You should not attempt to restore this right without help from an experienced lawyer.

There are state and federal laws dealing with illegal possession of firearms and ammunition which prevent convicted felons, persons subjected to protective orders, and people with misdemeanor domestic abuse convictions from possessing guns and ammunition. If you are not sure if you can own or possess a firearm, you should not possess a gun before talking to an experienced attorney. Many people on bond or probation are also prohibited from possessing firearms. Gun laws are very serious and could land you in jail if you illegally possess a firearm. Gun laws also vary from State to state. It is possible to restore the gun rights of certain convicted felons in Louisiana, but you should make sure that you are legal before possessing any firearms or ammunition.

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DUI Defense
Louisiana State Bar Association