What are my Rights
An encounter with a member of law enforcement can be a terribly intimidating experience. When people are being investigated by the police, their knee-jerk reaction is usually to do exactly what they say in order to avoid further trouble. In some instances, this may be prudent. Other times, it can be the biggest mistake of your life. Within any profession or industry, we have good and bad experiences and members of the police are no different. Put simply, there are good cops and bad cops.
Therefore, your level of cooperation with members of law enforcement should be tailored to the seriousness of the investigation. There are occasions (such as a simple traffic stop) where being completely courteous and polite is always best. Generally, the officer is going to do what he/she wants anyway, so you might as well stay calm and deal with any defense you might have at the time of your court appearance. However, in more serious matters involving a misdemeanor or felony criminal investigation, it is wise to proceed with caution. For example…
During Driving Under the Influence Arrests (DUIs)
If you are pulled over and suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the officer will ask you to step out of the vehicle. If he/she suspects that you are impaired, the officer will generally order you to start performing standardized field sobriety tests. They will not inform you that it is your legal right to participate in or refuse the test.
Illinois residents should be aware that there is currently no penalty in Illinois for refusing to take field sobriety tests. Field Sobriety Testing results are subjective because your performance is solely evaluated by the arresting officer. In a circumstance where your alcohol consumption was minimal, it may be best to refuse the field tests on the street, but take the breathalyzer at the station. If your breath result is under .08, the DUI is much weaker and you will retain driving privileges since the Statutory Summary Suspension Law in Illinois only triggers a suspension of license if the BAC test result is .08 or greater. If you have consumed significant amounts of alcohol before the police encounter, it would be best to refuse both field tests on the street and the breathalyzer at the police station. In DUI matters, one cannot consult with a lawyer during the investigation.
For criminal investigations
In other types of crimes (misdemeanor or felony), the police cannot interrogate you if you invoke your right to speak to an attorney during the criminal investigation. Anything that you say about the facts related to the investigation can be reported and/or misconstrued by law enforcement. The minute you ask to call your attorney, members of law enforcement must cease all questioning until the attorney is present. Often, law enforcement officials will become frustrated if you invoke that right and become more aggressive in their tactics. It is important to hold your ground. Continue requesting to either speak to an attorney or to have one present with you during the remainder of the investigation. Depending upon the amount of evidence already gathered by the police, making the decision to remain silent and speak to a lawyer may be the difference between a finding of “not guilty” and “guilty”.
For those in need of an experienced and professional criminal defense team, the law offices of Gardi, Haught, Fischer & Bhosale, Ltd. can provide experienced counsel to protect all your legal rights in felony or misdemeanor charges. Please contact us at 847.944.9400 to schedule an appointment and answer any questions you may have about your case.