Jamahl Kersey March 24, 2016 No Comments

When Can the Police Search My Car? Understanding Your Rights During a Traffic Stop

Most people have been pulled over by the police at least once in their lives. In many cases, a traffic stop simply ends with a warning or a citation–but in some situations, a traffic stop could very well lead to an arrest. Regardless of whether you believe you’ve done anything wrong or not, there are some basic things you’ll want to keep in mind when you’ll pulled over by the police. For example, many people wonder, “when can the police search my car?

A Note About Traffic Stops

First of all, understand that traffic stops are the single most dangerous aspect of any police officer’s job. More police officers are injured and killed during traffic stops than in any other call, so it’s important that you take steps to show the officer that you’re not a threat.

Upon realizing you’re being pulled over, turn on your hazard lights and pull off to the side of the road immediately. If it’s dark out, turn on your vehicle dome light so the officer can see who’s in the car. Then, wait for the officer to approach before reaching for your driver’s license, registration, or anything else. Making sudden movements could lead the officer to believe you’re a threat.

Warrants Versus Probable Cause

It’s also helpful here to understand the difference between a search warrant and having probable cause. Contrary to what many misinformed citizens believe, a police officer doesn’t need a search warrant to search your car; this only applies to stationary property (such as your house).

Instead, an officer only needs probable cause to search your car. In other words, if the officer has even a small amount of evidence (not just a hunch) that you’ve committed a crime, he or she is legally allowed to conduct the search.

What Constitutes Probable Cause in a Traffic Stop?

During a traffic stop, there are numerous things that could constitute probable cause. If the officer smells alcohol coming from your vehicle, he or she may have probable cause to suspect that you’re drinking while driving, just the same as the smell of marijuana coming from the car may give an officer probable cause to believe you’ve been using illegal substances.

Verbally Refusing Your Consent to Search

If an officer has probable cause to search your vehicle, you’ll likely still be asked for your consent. You have every right to refuse consent for any reason, but keep in mind that this won’t stop the officer from searching the car if he or she has probable cause.

Unfortunately, even in situations where an officer doesn’t have probable cause, many unsuspecting drivers are led to believe they have no choice but to consent to the search. Instead of asking for consent to search, the officers might say something along the lines of, “if you haven’t done anything wrong, then you won’t mind if we search your vehicle, right?”

Exercising Your Right to Remain Silent

If an officer searches your vehicle, regardless of whether you have something to hide or not, remember that you can exercise your right to remain silent under the Fifth Amendment. In fact, it’s recommended that you elect not to answer any questions (especially if you’re being detained) and that you request a lawyer before speaking to police officers. After all, anything you say can and will be used against you.

Getting pulled over and asked for consent to search your car can be an intimidating and unsettling experience for anybody. If you’re in need of legal guidance following a traffic stop, feel free to contact us today. Our team would be happy to assist you.

Jamahl Kersey March 17, 2016 No Comments

Expungement or Sealing of Adult Criminal Records in California

If you’ve been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony crime in the state of California, then you may want to look into the possibility of expungement or sealing of adult criminal records. In certain circumstances, you may very well be eligible for one of these options, either of which can benefit you in a number of ways if you have a criminal record.

Expungement vs. Sealing

Often times, people confuse expungement and record sealing for the same thing; in reality, they are very similar but still have some significant differences.

Specifically, when a criminal record is expunged, this means that you have a completely clean slate. The previous conviction(s) against you are essentially erased as if they never happened. Expungement can be completed after you’ve served your sentence. Record sealing, on the other hand, is only done for cases that were acquitted, dismissed, or in situations where the prosecution never filed charges. This essentially seals and eventually destroys any record of your arrest so that you can legally state you’ve never been arrested.

Who is Eligible for Expungement?

If you’re interested in wiping the slate clean, you’ll want to look into expungement. In the state of California, expungement is available to those with both misdemeanor and felony convictions (with some exceptions). So long as you have served out your sentence and probation, attended all required court appearances, and did not commit any additional crimes while on probation.

Keep in mind, however, that there are some convictions that simply cannot be expunged. Examples of these include certain sex crimes against children and statutory rape.

Who is Eligible for Sealing of Records?

There are a few situations in which you could be eligible to have your arrest record sealed and destroyed. For example, if you were arrested as a juvenile and are currently an adult, you may be eligible for record sealing if the arrest happened more than five years ago. Furthermore, you must not have any current convictions or pending litigation ongoing as a result of your juvenile arrest.

Benefits of Expungement or Sealing

There are numerous ways in which an expungement of your criminal record or even sealing of an arrest record can be beneficial to you. For starters, on job applications, you’ll be able to state that you’ve never been convicted of a crime or never been arrested, which can open up your job opportunities. Furthermore, expungement or sealing can also make it possible for you to obtain certain state certifications that you may not have otherwise been eligible for.

In some cases, expungement or record sealing can also help you maintain your credibility if you ever have to testify as a witness in court. Some facing the threat of deportation even find that expungement or record sealing can help them stay in the country.

Things You Need to Know

Before you decide with certainty that you want to pursue expungement or arrest record sealing, there are some additional things you should know. For starters, if you have a felony conviction, expungement will not allow you to legally own a firearm. Furthermore, if you’re looking to run for public office or are applying to be a police officer in the state of California, seal records and expungement records may still be visible and considered as part of your application.

Overall, expungement or record sealing can be a great way to expand your employment opportunities and free yourself from the burden of a criminal or arrest record. If you’re looking for professional assistance in expunging or sealing your record, feel free to contact us and set up a consultation today.

Jamahl Kersey February 25, 2016 No Comments

How to Choose a Criminal Defense Attorney

If you have been charged with a domestic violence crime, or are suspected of having committed such a crime, one of the most important things you can do early on is hire a criminal defense attorney who will advocate for you.

There are a lot of attorneys to choose from; you know you need to find a good one, so how do you choose who you want to be your criminal defense attorney? Here are some tips to help you with that decision:

1. Look for a criminal defense attorney. This may seem like a basic point, but it’s worth mentioning. Sure, your sister’s friend’s cousin might be great with handling divorces or writing wills, but when it comes to criminal law, you need an attorney who understands the criminal justice system and who has experience working within it. Even better, choose an attorney who handles cases like yours every day.

2. Get referrals. Even though you probably don’t want to work with your sister’s friend’s cousin (the estate planning family lawyer) on your defense, he/she may be able to recommend one or more criminal defense attorneys. You can also do some research online: read websites and reviews, check with the state bar association and other attorney referral organizations.

3. Public defenders vs. private attorneys. Understand that, although the state is required to provide you with a public defender, you may be better off selecting your own criminal defense attorney. Public defenders, while they may be experienced and competent, are generally balancing large case loads. Because of this, a public defender may not be able to devote the time and attention to your case that you deserve.

4. Talk to attorneys. When you have found one or more attorneys you are considering hiring, meet with them. However, don’t be put off if you cannot get an immediate appointment with an attorney; good defense attorneys have busy calendars. When you do talk to an attorney, is he/she a good communicator? Do you feel like he/she is really listening to you? You should feel comfortable, and you should always be treated professionally in your interactions with your attorney’s office.

5. Ask questions about experience. Has the attorney you are considering hiring handled cases like yours in the past? If so, what was the outcome? How would the attorney proceed with your case, if you were to choose him/her?

6. Ask questions about fees. How does the attorney charge for their services? Do they want a large sum of money up front? Do they bill by the hour? How frequently will you be expected to make payments? One attorney’s fees will differ from another’s based on a wide variety of factors. While you should always expect to pay fees that are reasonable, remember that the cheapest attorney may not equal the best representation.

7. Ask about staff. Who will be working on your case? If your attorney has a staff, find out who you will really be working with for different aspects of your defense.

8. Listen to your gut. At the end of the day, you need to choose an attorney you feel comfortable having represent you. Listen to your instincts, and choose accordingly.

Your criminal defense attorney should defend you vigorously. The possible outcomes will vary, based on the merits of the case against you and all available defenses. Know that, no matter how good any attorney is, no attorney can guarantee you results.

You deserve to have an experienced criminal defense attorney behind you every step of the way. Contact us to learn more about the types of domestic violences cases we see every day, and to schedule a consultation.