By: Courtney Hart
It sounds like a problem from the movies. You’re driving along, minding
your own business, and suddenly a police car’s flashing lights emerge
and you have to pull over. You may not even know what you did wrong. It
didn’t seem like you were speeding. You put on your turn signal
before that last turn. You’re not weaving out of your lane. But
here you are, stopped on the side of the road anyway.
For many people, routine encounters with police are an intimidating experience
– even when you
know you’ve done nothing wrong. There’s something about the act
of being stopped by an officer that makes people feel apprehensive even
if you know you have no reason to be. And those vulnerable moments can
unfortunately lead to mistakes with serious consequences.
That’s where Maine criminal defense lawyers like us come in. We are
here to be your voice to the police. You are not obligated to answer an
officer’s questions. But you have to
let us help you. Ask for an attorney so he or she can discuss your options
with you. It’s best to have that advice, that advocate in your corner
from the beginning rather than after you’ve already allowed an officer
too much leeway.
Many people think that if an officer asks to search your vehicle, you have
You don’t. Even if there’s nothing to hide,
searches of vehicles are an intrusion on your privacy. That’s why the law provides that searches can only happen in certain
circumstances. Those laws are there to protect you, and we’re here
to let you know about them. Having tinted windows and a loud stereo could
give rise to an encounter with police, but that doesn’t give the
police any more reason to search your car than anyone else’s.
Here’s one crucial thing to remember: if an officer has the probable
cause he or she needs to search your vehicle, then a warrant should be
easy to get.
You don’t have to accommodate that request. You don’t have to argue or protest – you can simply, politely
say no. The officer either has to end the encounter there or go get a
warrant. You cannot be detained just because you or your vehicle looks
a certain way.
you don’t have to volunteer any information to the police. If you’re uncomfortable answering a certain question, you can simply
say so. Remember, even the friendliest officer is still there to do a
job: to get the information necessary to see if something illegal is going
on. You don’t have to help them.
For example, if an officer asks you whether you’ve been drinking
and how many beers you’ve had, that presumes you’ve had some
beer. Telling him or her you “only had one” may still give
that officer the information he or she needs to ask you to perform field
sobriety tests, or to search your vehicle. That’s when trouble starts.
An attorney may still be able to help you down the road, but you can be
your own best defender at the outset by calmly and politely telling the
police you haven’t done anything wrong and you’d like to speak
to a lawyer before you answer any questions.
Encounters with police can be unnerving even for the most confident people.
If you find yourself in a tough situation after an encounter with a law
enforcement officer, call one of our experienced
criminal lawyers at Shaheen & Gordon, P.A. today. We’re here to help you and
we represent clients throughout Maine from offices in Saco and Portland.
Consultations are free and confidential.