Articles Tagged with rights

One of the most common questions I am asked is the effect of a felony pardon on a person’s ability to possess a firearm. The answer is a bit more complex than one might think at first glance.

The Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles has the authority in our state to issue pardons and restore “civil rights.” These rights include the right to vote, the right to hold public office, and of course the right to possess a firearm.

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I was recently given the honor of being appointed to serve a second three-year term as CJA Panel Representative from the Middle District of Alabama. The CJA Panel is the group of private practice lawyers who are accepted by the Federal District Court to receive appointments to represent clients in that court. As CJA Panel Representative, my first task of the year was to attend the national conference in Alexandria, Virginia.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Criminal Justice Act, the landmark legislation that set up the system of appointed counsel in place today, allowing even those among us who are unable to afford legal representation will receive the competent, skilled assistance of a lawyer.

After attending the conference, I have a couple of thoughts that I would like to share.

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handcuff-449966-mNo one wants to find themselves the subject of a police investigation, or under arrest for any criminal charge, no matter how minor.  Many of us are unprepared and lack the knowledge of how to conduct ourselves in that situation.  The information below will help you to handle that situation in the best way possible.

  1. You have the right to remain silent.  Use it.  There are few if any situations in which it is to a person’s advantage to make a statement to law enforcement.  If you choose to do so, it should be under the supervision of your lawyer, after a careful negotiation.  Be polite, but be firm.  Tell law enforcement that you want a lawyer present before answering any questions.  The law requires them to cease questioning.
  2. Do not consent to a search of your person, vehicle, or home, unless shown a search warrant.  You have a right to privacy.  Governmental entities such as police officers cannot search you, your vehicle, or your home without probable cause or a search warrant.  If you consent to a search, the issue of probable cause is waived and cannot be raised in court.  Again, when asked, politely refuse permission to search.
  3. Be respectful, and never get physical.  No one stands a chance of winning an argument or a physical confrontation with law enforcement officers.  Arguing with officers only makes things harder and can never be to your benefit.  Often, prosecutors will consult with their officers before reducing or dismissing charges.  If you make an officer angry with you, it decreases your chances for a good result from your case.
  4. Don’t give false information or documentation to the police.  You have the duty to give accurate identifying information to law enforcement.  If you lie about your identity or provide false documents, this can, at best, make your case more difficult, and at worst can lead to additional misdemeanor and/or felony charges.
  5. Don’t tell anyone that you have been arrested.  Outside of your immediate family, no one needs to be aware of your arrest.  If everyone in town knows you have been arrested, it limits the options that you and your lawyer can later explore.
  6. Don’t talk with anyone about your case.  When charged with a crime, you cannot trust anyone except a lawyer who is ethically bound to hold all information in the strictest confidence.
  7. Immediately consult with a competent lawyer.  The sooner a lawyer gets involved in your case, the more good he or she can do.  Meet with your lawyer and truthfully explain the facts about your case.  Make sure you feel comfortable with the lawyer.  If the lawyer makes promises or guarantees, that is a warning sign that the lawyer is not being honest with you.

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