Confronting the power of the police and the seriousness of an arrest may be overwhelming. But your constitutional rights can play a key role in your criminal defense.
Police may arrest you if they have a warrant for your arrest, observe a crime or attempted crime, or have probable cause that you committed a crime or offense. For probable cause, the police officer did not have to witness the crime but can make an arrest based upon reasonable and reliable information that the person committed the crime.
Police may use reasonable force to make an arrest if there is resistance. But they cannot continue to use force if the person is restrained. Even if you are innocent, you should cooperate, remain polite and never resist, interfere or argue.
Police may search you after making a lawful arrest. If you are in a vehicle, police can search the area around you. Do not sign or agree an authorization to search anything. But you should not resist or interfere with the search.
Under New Jersey’s implied consent law, you must submit to a breath test if the police if the police have reasonable cause to believe that you are driving under the influence of alcohol or a drug. Test results may be used as evidence against you in a prosecution.
During a vehicle stop, you should give basic identification information such as your license, registration and proof of insurance. You should not provide other information about seemingly innocent information about, for example, where you were or how much you drank. You may ask about the reason for the stop and, as always, stay polite and respectful.
You do not have the right to speak to an attorney before submitting to a breathalyzer and your driver’s license may be suspended for up to six months if you refuse the test. However, you may refuse to undergo a blood test.
You have the constitutional right to refuse to answer any questions, sign any statements or undergo any tests except for a breath test. You should identify yourself but refuse to make any additional statements. Any statements that are voluntarily made may be used to prosecute you.
You should have an attorney with you when you speak to police. A lawyer may protect your rights and deal with improper police conduct and any improperly seized evidence.