Our law firm wishes you and your family a great 2017. It’s the time of year where people make New Year Resolutions with the hope of meeting a goal such as losing weight, getting in shape, saving money for a house or eliminating a bad habit such as excessive smoking or drinking. This is also a good time to understand ways to avoid literally spending thousands on dollars on a criminal defense lawyer!
A criminal problem can happen to anyone and I have represented persons from every walk of life. Through these experiences, I’ve identified a list a behaviors that would have kept my clients out of legal trouble in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. These 5 tips aren’t rocket science but often forgotten rules. Many criminal charges, especially those involving illegal guns, drugs and DUI start with a poor decision on the part of the client to inject himself or herself into a situation.
Most criminal cases don’t start with an elaborate investigation like a Law & Order drama, but rather police responding to an incident like a routine traffic stop. I often represent people who have no criminal history who are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time or who made a decision because they either didn’t understand the law or their rights. Unfortunately, none of these excuses are legal defense! If they would have just followed these rules, they wouldn’t have needed my services or that of any criminal defense lawyer. Here are the 5 rules:
- Don’t be disrespectful to police and law enforcement!
- You don’t a have constitutional right to be a jerk to police! In fact, I recommend being respectful and cooperative. Respectful and cooperative doesn’t surrendering you’re constitutional right against illegal search and seizure. Respectful and polite doesn’t mean freely answering questions and volunteering information. It means never arguing with the officer and not getting in his or her way if he chooses to search your car or you without your permission. Arguing with the police officer or state trooper is pointless and will only make your case worse.
- Don’t drive just because you “don’t feel drunk!”
- “Feeling Drunk” isn’t a good indication of your level of intoxication and your BAC (Blood Alcohol Content or Concentration). The sense of intoxication isn’t based on your BAC but rather your tolerance. Tolerance and BAC can be mutually exclusive. I encourage you to read my prior articles on BAC, and my book 5 Ways to Fight and Fin your Pennsylvania DUI case. Don’t base your decision to drive after a night out on how you feel. My personal rule is that I’ve consumed more than one drink, I don’t drive my car and if I’ve consumed any alcohol, I won’t drive with my kids in the car. Impairment really does begin with the first drink and police are trained to look for certain cues during field sobriety testing. There are defense strategies to fight drunk driving cases but the best strategy is not to drive.
- Don’t stay with someone who know possesses contraband (gun, drugs, etc.) in their house or car!
- Remember that they don’t need to find the drugs, guns or any type of contraband on you to charge you with a crime. Drug and gun can range from a felony or misdemeanor offense in Pennsylvania and crimes of the first, second and third degree in New Jersey. The Garden State, unlike our Commonwealth, doesn’t have felony or misdemeanor offenses. Like Pennsylvania, however, actual possession of these items isn’t required in New Jersey.
- If you are the area of the gun, drug or other contraband, the prosecution only has to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the item was in your control. Even if the prosecution, can’t establish your guilt, a conspiracy charge carries with it the same punishment under the law. Criminal conspiracy charges don’t merge for the purposes of sentencing
- If you are staying in someone’s home or driving in their car who you know is involved in illegal activity, it’s a good decision not comingle your personal belonging. Circumstantial evidence of constructive possession include things such as mail coming to an address, clothing items around the house
- Don’t text, blog, email or post foul comments or worse threaten others!
- I can’t stress this rule enough—communicating online or through texting is the worst mistake you can make. You are making a record of the communication, which the prosecution can then introduce into evidence at a trial. There is no internet privilege! I have former client now serving 10 years in state prison because of a text message that he sent to the victim in a case.
- It’s also important to keep in mind that the prosecution may attempt to use these communications at bail hearing to show that you are danger to the community. Read my article about bail to understand more about this concept.
- Don’t carry your Pennsylvania Firearm across state lines, especially New Jersey
- Your license to carry in Pennsylvania isn’t valid in New Jersey and a lot of other states like New York and Delaware. While our Commonwealth does enjoy reciprocity with a number of jurisdictions, never make the assumption. If you do plan on traveling through New Jersey with your handgun or firearm, read my article to avoid issues. You should understand the difference between shall issue states like Pennsylvania and may issues states like New Jersey where it’s almost impossible to obtain a license to carry a firearm
For more great criminal defense strategies and tips, I encourage you to visit my free download section