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Defendants Rights

Winning at a Preliminary Hearing

Most of the time, prosecutor's win prelims. Careful prosecutors don't bring cases that might not stand up to the judge's scrutiny.

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The Difference Between a Preliminary Hearing and a Trial

Preliminary hearings differ from trials in many important respects:

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Representing Yourself at Arraignment

Many defendants are capable of representing themselves at an arraignment.

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Negotiating Before Arraignment and Pleading Guilty at the Arraignment

Defendants who believe the case against them is very weak often ask whether it's possible to negotiate a dismissal before the arraignment.

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Plead or Go to Trial: Who Decides? How to Decide?

While attorneys can give advice, clients have the ultimate right to make most of the important decisions relating to their case, with very few excepti...

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Decisions That Only the Client Can Make

While attorneys can give advice, clients have the ultimate right to make most of the important decisions relating to their case.

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Your Lawyer’s Duty to Keep Things Confidential

The most basic principle underlying the lawyer-client relationship is that lawyer-client communications are privileged, or confidential. But clients...

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Sobriety Checkpoints

Sobriety checkpoints are a particular type of roadblock.

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When Can Police Set Up Roadblocks?

When police stop only "suspicious" cars at roadblocks, the stops may not be legal.

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Can police use a traffic stop as a pretext to search for evidence?

As long as police have a valid reason to make a traffic stop, their "true" motives are irrelevant.

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Searching Passengers and Their Belongings

As long as the car stop is valid, police have a right to search occupants as well as drivers.

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Car Searches by Police Following a Valid Stop

If you're pulled over for a traffic violation, can the police search your car?

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The Difference Between a Police "Search" and a "Frisk"

A search is more extensive than a frisk--but the line can be hard to draw.

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When Police May Stop Someone on the Street

A police officer's hunch that something is afoot is not enough.

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Searching Your Home After an Arrest

When you're arrested in your home, a limited search is permissible.

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Police Searches After an Arrest: Scope and Intensity

Police officers do not need a warrant to make a search “incident to an arrest.” After an arrest, police officers have the right to protect themsel...

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How do courts determine whether police searches of yards and outbuildings are valid?

Whether a search of areas around your home requires a warrant depends on whether you've got a reasonable expectation of privacy in those areas.

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Where do the police have a "right" to be and search?

Officers don't need a search warrant to seize evidence or contraband that's in plain sight.

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How Police Get Permission to Conduct a Search

If a defendant freely and voluntarily agrees to a search, the search is valid and whatever the officers find is admissible in evidence. No equivalent ...

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Police Searches and Improperly Issued Warrants

When a judge makes a mistake and issues a warrant that shouldn’t have been made, what happens to the evidence the police turn up?

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Search Warrants and Probable Cause

Requiring the police to obtain a warrant before conducting a search is one way that the courts enforce the Fourth Amendment’s requirement that any s...

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Illegal Searches and Your Criminal Case

The general rule is that items taken in an illegal search—one that violates the Fourth Amendment—cannot be used as evidence. But several exception...

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Search and Seizure Basics

The Fourth Amendment protects against “unreasonable” searches and seizures by state or federal law enforcement authorities. However, the Fourth Am...

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Search Warrants: What They Are and When They're Necessary

Police officers obtain search warrants by convincing a judge or magistrate that they have "probable cause" to believe that criminal activity is occurr...

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Understanding Search and Seizure Law

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution places limits on the power of the police to make arrests, search people and their property, and seize ob...

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Gun Ownership Rights Under Heller

In District of Columbia v. Heller, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the U.S. Constitution protects an individual's right to own a gun for personal u...

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Miranda Rights: What Happens If Police Don't 'Read Your Rights'

Many people believe that if they are arrested and not "read their rights," they can escape punishment. Not true. But if the police fail to read a susp...

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Criminal Defendants' Rights During Trial: The Bill of Rights

The Bill of Rights provides certain rights to criminal defendants during trial. There are two fundamental aspects of the U.S.

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Statements Obtained When Police Violate Miranda: Can They Be Used Against You?

Most of the time, when the police fail to follow the Miranda rule, the defendant's statements cannot be used against him or her at trial -- but there ...

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Questioning Suspects in Custody: The Miranda Rule

Police must advise you of your “Miranda rights” before initiating in-custody questioning.

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Miranda Protection on the Phone with Police

Miranda v. Arizona requires the police to inform a suspect of his Miranda rights before a custodial interrogation. Talking on the phone to the police...

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