Most people know that they should probably hire a lawyer once they’ve been charged with a crime, but the criminal process — and the need to protect your rights — can start well before you are arrested or charged. Particularly when it comes to drug offenses, you may be under investigation for weeks, months, or even years while police gather evidence through surveillance, wiretaps, trash pulls, tips from confidential informants, or searches of your house, car, and other property to build a case before deciding to arrest you.
Even if you’re not suspected of a crime yourself, law enforcement agents may decide to question you in connection with a drug crime — and you may need an experienced San Diego drug crimes lawyer to protect your rights even though you’re innocent of any wrongdoing. Pieces of circumstantial evidence, or statements you make during an interview, can be misinterpreted, and then you may find yourself facing charges just because you were nervous and may have stumbled over your answers when interrogated by police.
Your Rights During an Investigation
It’s important to know that you have rights during every step of an investigation. It’s also important to know that you can seek representation from a San Diego drug lawyer at any point in an investigation — and having a good lawyer by your side can be invaluable when it comes to protection your rights and making sure police don’t overstep their boundaries when building a case.
Some critical rights that you have during an investigation include:
- Miranda Rights — When police take you into custody, they are required to administer your Miranda rights before questioning you. Your Miranda Rights include having the right to remain silent and having the right to an attorney. If you talk to police after being arrested, your statements generally are admissible in court. However, when police take you into custody and interrogate you without administering your Miranda rights, an experienced San Diego drug lawyer may be able to get those statements excluded from court.However, Miranda rights only apply to statements you make once you’ve been taken into custody. If the police ask you questions before you’re taken into custody, they are not required to advise you of your rights. If you answer those questions, the statements may be used in court even though your rights hadn’t been read.
- Right to Be Protected From Unreasonable Searches — Both the U.S. and California Constitutions grant you the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. That generally means that police must obtain a warrant before searching or seizing your property, and that warrants must be based on probable cause that a crime has occurred or that you are linked to criminal activity. There are some exceptions that allow police to search you or your property without a warrant, but unless one of those exceptions applies then the search may be illegal and police or prosecutors may not be able to use evidence obtained through the search against you in court.Police may ask you to consent to a search of your home, car, or other property so that they don’t have to go through the process of getting a search warrant. You do not have to consent to a search, and if you do not, then police must obtain a warrant unless one of the exceptions to the warrant requirement applies.
Why Hire a San Diego Drug Lawyer During an Investigation
When the police show up at your home or pull you over in a traffic stop, that can be a nerve-wracking experience and you may be confused about what rights you have, or forget to assert your rights in the stress of the moment. However, if you have an attorney, he or she can ensure that your rights are protected as police proceed with an interrogation or a search. A skilled criminal defense lawyer can:
- Advise you how to respond to questions by police
- Ensure that police obtain a warrant before searching your property
- Evaluate whether police engaged in illegal surveillance, wiretapping, searches, or seizures
- Talk to prosecutors before charges are filed and try to resolve your case before it goes to court
- Monitor whether charges are filed against you by the statute of limitations for the crime that is the subject of the investigation