Criminal Law

What Are My Rights If I'm Arrested?

What These Words Mean

  Bail­ Guarantee of money to let a person out of jail until his trial.
  Evidence­ Anything that shows what is true and what is not.
  Innocent­ Doing no wrong, not guilty.
  Jury­ A group of 12 people in court who decide what the facts are.
  Preliminary Hearing­ A meeting in court before the trial for you, your lawyer, the prosecutor and the judge.
  Prosecutor­ The lawyer for the state.
  Violation­ Breaking the law.
  Waive­ To give away a right.

For What Can You Be Arrested?

Violation of a city or county law such as speeding, peace disturbance, or stealing less than $50. You can be punished by paying a fine.

  • Misdemeanor­ a more serious crime, such as stealing less than $150, or possession of under 35 grams of marijuana. You can be punished by paying a fine, or by going to the county jail or workhouse for up to one year.
  • Felony­ the most serious crimes, such as stealing more than $150, murder, burglary, robbery, or having drugs or guns. Punishment for these crimes can be going to prison for more than one year, or even death.

When Can You Be Arrested?

  • If a police officer has a warrant for your arrest.
  • If a police officer sees you violate or try to violate the law.
  • If a police officer believes you have violated the law.

What Are Your Rights After The Arrest?

  • You may refuse to talk to the police or answer any questions. You may refuse to sign a statement.
  • You must be allowed to call a lawyer.
  • If you cannot pay for a lawyer, you may insist that you have a free lawyer to be present during any police questioning.

A police officer must tell you he has a court order for your arrest.

What Can The Police Do To You If You Are Arrested?

  • Search your body.
  • Search your belongings.
  • Search your car if you are in it.
  • Search the space around you if you are in your home. The police officer must show you a search warrant before he can enter and search your home.

Can The Police Test You For Alcohol?

Yes, if you have been driving, but the results can be used against you in court. You have the right to refuse, but your driver`s license may be taken away. Your refusal to take the test may be used as evidence against you.

What Are Your Rights In Court?

  • The court must tell you the charge against you.
  • The court must tell you of your right to have a lawyer.
  • The court must appoint a lawyer to represent you if you cannot afford to hire a lawyer.
  • You must be given time to send for a lawyer.

What Does Waive Your Rights Mean?

  • To choose to give them up.
  • You may decide not to talk with a lawyer.
  • You may decide to talk with the police. All facts you give to the police may be used against you in court.
  • You may decide to sign a statement.
  • You may decide to take any tests.
  • You are never required to waive your rights. If you choose to assert your rights, it can never be used against you.

Do You Have To Stay In Jail Until Your Trial?

No, you can ask for a bail bond. You can be kept in jail a short time before your bail is set. The court decides the amount of your bail bond.

Your family or friends may help. They must show that they own enough property to meet the bail amount. This is called posting bail. If you do not come to court, their property can be taken away.

A bail bondsman can get bail for you. He does not give back the money you pay for his help. You can get names at the police station. Look in the yellow pages of the phone book under Bail Bonds. Ask police if you may sign your own bond.

When Do You Go To Court?

You may have to go to court several times. The court will tell you when to go to court.

Do You Need A Lawyer In Court?

It is best for you to have a lawyer with you. The court will ask who your lawyer is. The court will give you a chance to find a lawyer. If there is a chance that you could go to jail and cannot pay for a lawyer, the court will assign a lawyer to help you.

What Will Your Lawyer Do?

Your lawyer will learn all about the charges against you. Your lawyer will try to help you. You should try to help your lawyer all you can. Tell the lawyer all you know about your case. Tell your lawyer about your arrest. What you tell your lawyer is private. The police or the court cannot find out what you tell your lawyer.

What Happens In Court?

The court will ask if you plead guilty or not guilty. Your lawyer will tell you what your answer should be.

If you plead guilty, the court will decide your punishment.

If you plead not guilty, the court will set a date for your trial.

Can You Answer Not Guilty Even If You Are Guilty?

You are innocent until you are proven guilty. Your lawyer may think that the evidence against you is not enough to prove that you are guilty. You may have a better chance if you have a trial. You have a trial only if you plead not guilty.

What Kind Of Trial Will You Have?

You have a right to a jury trial, but you must ask for it. If you do not ask for a jury, only the judge will be at your trial. The jury decides if you are guilty or not guilty. Your lawyer can tell you if you should ask for a jury trial.

Is Court Any Different For A Felony Charge?

Yes. Before you answer guilty or not guilty, you will have a preliminary hearing, or your case will go to the grand jury.

If you have a preliminary hearing, a judge hears the evidence against you in a public courtroom. He then decides if you should be held for trial.

If your case goes to the grand jury, 12 people will hear the evidence against you in a secret meeting. They will decide if you should be held for trial.

What Happens While You Wait For Your Trial?

In most cases, you may be freed on bail until the trial, but you must come to court on your court dates before the trial.

For legal advice see your lawyer. If you need help finding a lawyer, call the Missouri Bar Lawyer Referral Service at 573/636­3635.

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