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Criminal Law

Frequently Asked Questions About Criminal Law

When may you be arrested without a warrant?

An officer may arrest you without a warrant in many situations, including when:

  • He knows that a warrant for your arrest has been issued and is in effect.
  • The arresting officer has probable cause to believe that a felony has been or is being committed by you.
  • A misdemeanor is committed in the presence of an officer and involves a present or anticipated breach of peace.
  • A statute provides that an arrest for a specific misdemeanor, not involving a breach of the peace, can be made without a warrant, such as crimes involving domestic violence.
  • You are driving a car, and the police find that you are driving without a license.

Remember, an officer may use all the reasonable force necessary to arrest you and to keep you under arrest. You should never resist the officer arresting or searching you, nor should you interfere with him if he is arresting or searching someone else. The act of resisting arrest has now been made a separate felony offense which may subject you to additional penalties if you are charged with this crime.

If you believe that your rights are being violated, remember exactly what the police officer does, and then tell your attorney about it at the earliest appropriate time.

What rights do you have when arrested?

  • You have the right to know the crime with which you have been charged.
  • You have the right to know the names of the policeman dealing with you. Any policeman, by statute and custom, should identify himself upon request.
  • You have a right to use the telephone soon after you are brought to the police station to call your family, a friend, a lawyer or to arrange bail, but you have the right to use a telephone only for an hour after you’ve been informed of this right.
  • You have the right to hire an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, you have thr right to request the court to appoint one to represent you free of charge in any felony or misdemeanor case for which a penalty of imprisonment if provided. You may be ordered to reimburse the commonwealth for some or all of the costs of an appointed attorney.

Remember, constitutional rights can be waived or given up. Before you say or sign anything, weigh your decision carefully. Read any waiver form carefully before you sign it and make sure you understand what rights you are giving up.

What procedures are usually followed after your arrest?

  • The officer will take you to a police station.
  • The police will list the tentative charges against you. However, these charges may be later changed by the district court or grand jury.
  • You may be required to participate in a lineup, to present a sample of your penmanship or to speak phrases associated with the offense with which you are charged.
  • You may be required to submit to being fingerprinted and photographed.
  • You will be arraigned at a court session or arrangements can be made for your release either by yourself or your attorney. Arrangements also can be made for your release either by yourself or by your attorney at the station.
  • You will be arraigned at the next court session.

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