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Denver has recently seen a substantial increase in both auto thefts and methamphetamine possession – a 13% increase in stolen vehicles, and a 30% increase in meth possession arrests.
Drug addicts often steal or break into vehicles in order to trade the contraband for drugs. Local law enforcement is aware of this connection, and is attempting to crack down on both types of offenses.
However, the assumption that someone is committing auto theft to pay for drugs is just that – an assumption. If police assume that the two offenses are linked, this could lead to rights violations. Here’s why – and how to protect your rights.
The probable cause requirement dictates that police must have adequate reason to arrest you, conduct a search, or seize property. This stems from the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
In other words, police are only allowed to conduct searches and seizures for the offense(s) for which they have probable cause. For the above context, probable cause for auto theft would not be grounds for police to conduct separate searches for drug offenses, even though auto theft has been linked to drug crimes.
For example, if police stop you in a car registered as stolen, they have probable cause to arrest you for auto theft, and to conduct searches and seizures related to this offense. However, this would not be probable cause to conduct searches or seizures specifically related to drug offenses (e.g., a search of your residence). On the other hand, if police happen to find drugs on your person in the course of the arrest for auto theft, you would still face possession charges.
If you are stopped and/or arrested by police, it is important to be aware of your rights and exercise them appropriately to ensure that they are not violated in the course of the arrest, search, seizure, or questioning. It is also important to involve an attorney, who can leverage his or her expertise to ensure that your rights are protected.
Be Respectful… But Informed
Many people operate under the assumption that if they are cooperative with law enforcement, police are more likely to “go easy” on them. This is in fact a dangerous misconception. Police often attempt to conduct searches without warrants, hoping that citizens will consent to the search due to this myth.
If police ask to search your person, your vehicle, or your residence, respectfully ask to see the search warrant. If a warrant is not produced, politely state that they do not have your consent to conduct the search.
Should you be arrested or searched under probable cause, remain calm and cooperative. This will protect your safety and prevent further charges, such as resisting arrest.
Exercise Your Miranda Rights
If you are arrested, the arresting officer will read you your Miranda Rights, which state that you have the right to remain silent, and the right to an attorney. However, after you are taken into custody, police typically attempt to question you without an attorney present, often stating that they want to get “your side of the story” or making a similar claim.
You do not have to answer these questions, and in fact it’s not advisable to do so. Politely state that you would prefer to have an attorney present during questioning.
Involve an Attorney
A common misconception is that asking to have an attorney present, or “lawyering up” implies guilt. This is simply untrue. It is in fact advisable to involve a lawyer as early as possible in any criminal case, regardless of the circumstances.
A skilled Colorado criminal defense attorney can make sure that your rights are protected during the questioning and ensuing criminal investigation, and may even be able to get your case thrown out entirely. Don’t wait until charges are pressed – your first phone call should always be to a lawyer.
About the Author:
Denver-based criminal defense and DUI attorney Jacob E. Martinez is a knowledgeable and experienced litigator with a record of success providing innovative solutions to clients facing criminal charges of any severity. Mr. Martinez has been designated a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers and has been awarded both the Avvo Client’s Choice Award and Avvo Top Attorney designation, evidencing his reputation for his exemplary criminal and DUI defense work and high moral standards.