Wednesday, December 4, 2013


Whether under arrest or just being detained for questioning you have several Constitutional rights that you may invoke to protect you from self-incrimination. You have the right to remain silent and refuse to answer questions put to you by the police with the exception of identifying yourself. You have the right to say no to searches of your person, property, car or home. You have the right to refuse to submit to field sobriety tests at traffic stops as well as preliminary breath tests. Unfortunately the police are very skilled in intimidating, coercing and deceiving suspects by telling them that it will go harder on them if they don’t cooperate or give a statement. The fact is that if you do cooperate the outcome will be the same except they will have more usable evidence against you.

You have the right to have an attorney during questioning and to consult with your attorney before speaking to the police. Exercise that right. Attorneys are not intimidated by the police and the police know they can’t get away with the same tactics they might otherwise use to obtain a suspects statements. In fact, usually when an attorney is involved the police will give up their efforts to continue questioning a suspect or in attempting to get permission to search. Remember, your attorney has your best interest in mind, the police don’t.

Remember, your statements can be used against you and even be manipulated to sound worse than what you intended. Your permission can lead to searches and seizures of evidence that might otherwise not have been legally obtained or used against you. There is an old saying to remember when dealing with the police. “The fish that keeps his mouth shut never gets a hook in it.” Don’t be the one to end up in the frying pan!

Updates in the Law by Michael S. Davis

Monday, April 15, 2013


Usually after being charged with a traffic offense you will be issued a summons to appear in court. For some traffic offenses you may actually be taken into custody such as in the case of a DWI. If you are released on a summons and not taken into custody your first appearance in the court will be for trial. There are some exceptions to this rule. In accident cases and in some other instances there may be a requirement for a second appearance. Otherwise, your first appearance will be for the purpose of entering a plea or to conduct a trial. If the court finds you guilty there will be a penalty imposed which may involve a fine and court costs and could involve the imposition of jail depending on the nature of the offense. The maximum fine in this court is $2500.00. The maximum jail that can be given on each offense is 12 months. In addition there are court costs that must be paid and can not be waived by the court.

If you have been incarcerated as a result of an offense you will be taken to the magistrate after your arrest where the magistrate has the option of releasing you on your promise to appear in court, or, you may be given a bond that must be paid to ensure your appearance in court. The magistrate also has the option of refusing to issue a bond in which case you will be kept in jail until you appear for an arraignment before a judge who will set a bond and conditions for your release. Usually arraignments are set for the next court date after your arrest. The case will then follow the same procedure as if you had been released on a summons. There are situations where the magistrate and the judge refuse to set a bond for your release. In these cases you have a right to appeal your bond to the Circuit Court to try and reverse this decision.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


As happens to most of us at some point, you’re driving down the street and you see the blue lights in the rear view mirror. Great, you’re being stopped by the police, now what?

            Most of the time the police are going to be stopping you for a minor offense. It could be speeding, running a light or stop sign or some other infraction. When you are stopped do not exit your car unless you are specifically asked to by the officer. For safety reasons the police like you to remain in your car. Don’t fumble around with your license or reach into your glove box to get your registration until the officer comes to the car and asks you for it. When officers see you getting things out of the glove box or reaching into your back pocket for a wallet they don’t know what you are reaching for and it makes them very nervous. The officer may take a few minutes to actually approach the car. What he is doing before he comes to the car is running your license number through the computer to see if the car is stolen or you are wanted. Be patient, this usually doesn’t take long.

            Shortly after the stop the officer will come to your car door. When he or she does, have your hands on the wheel or at least in plain sight. The first thing the officer will probably ask you for is your license and registration. This is the time to go ahead and retrieve these items. The officer will probably then glance at the inside of your car or at night shine his or her flashlight into the car. This is standard procedure to see if you have anything that is obviously illegal in plain sight. The next thing the officer will do is inform you why he stopped you. Not all officers do this but most will. They may state that they stopped you for speeding or some other infraction. Or, they may ask you if you know why you were stopped. In either case, don’t offer information. If they ask you why you were stopped just say you don’t know. The reason for this is that if you say you were speeding or doing something else wrong they will use that information against you in court to help convict you. A typical situation is, (Officer) - “Do you know why I stopped you? (You) - I think I was speeding. (Officer) -  Do you know what the speed limit is here? ( You) -  No, I’m not sure. (Officer) -  How fast do you think you were going? (You) -  I don’t know.” By the time this gets to court the officer will testify that you admitted to him that you did not know how fast you were going and that you did not know the speed limit where he stopped you. This gives the judge very little choice but to believe that the officer is correct in his observations and find you guilty. The better course of action is to politely tell the officer that you don’t wish to answer any questions.

            There are two things you should always avoid. First when the officer tells you why he stopped you don’t argue with him. You are not likely to change his mind by telling him he is wrong and in all likelihood it will only serve to make him mad. In his mind you are simply calling him a liar. Second, don’t try to talk your way out of a summons or arrest. The officer is going to do what he wants to do and you are not going to have any impact on him by trying to sweet talk him or bargain with him. Generally the only thing you can accomplish by doing this is dig a deeper hole for yourself. You will probably say something that can be used against you in the conversation such as indicated in the previous paragraph. Furthermore, the officer may indicate to the judge that you were not cooperative during the stop which may have an impact on how the judge perceives your case and how he will sentence you if he or she finds you guilty. Another reason not to make the officer mad is that he or she has great influence on both prosecutors and judges in determining whether your charge is dismissed or reduced at court. The more you irritate a police officer the less likely that you or your attorney can strike a bargain with them for a lower charge or dismissal of your case.

            After the officer has issued a summons he will return to your car and ask you to sign the summons. The signature is a personal pledge by you that you will appear in court. It is not an admission of guilt. If you refuse to sign the summons indicating that you will appear for court the officer will in all likelihood arrest you and take you before a magistrate to post a bond. There is no reason that you should not sign the summons.

            After the officer has completed the stop you will be free to leave the area and continue on your way. It would be wise to consult a lawyer about your situation to see what your best option might be. Many times there can be consequences to a conviction that may not be immediately apparent.  Most attorneys will consult with you over the phone or schedule an appointment to discuss the matter. At the law office of Michael S Davis, we handle these matters on a daily basis and would be happy to discuss your situation at no cost and help you determine your best course of action.