Frequently Asked Questions

What should I do if I am questioned by the police?

Questioning In Person

If you refuse to be questioned by the police, that refusal simply cannot be used against you in a trial [See Doyle v. Ohio, 426 U.S. 610 [1976] and Maxwell v. State of Oklahoma, F-01-1514]. There is just no cost to an American citizen for declining to speak to police, the sheriff, the FBI or anyone else who is investigating an alleged crime. Frankly, you run a greater risk to yourself by talking to the police even if you’re telling the truth: the police and a proseutor can charge you with obstruction of justice if they even THINK you’re being untruthful. And that’s a risk you bring on yourself even if you’re only a witness, much less a full-on suspect. So just say “No, thank you”. It’s your right.

If you are uncomfortable talking to police in person, then politely but firmly say no, get up, and walk away. You can even walk away in the police station unless you have been placed under arrest. And they don’t have to say, “You’re under arrest” before you are – in the eyes of the law – under arrest. You are under arrest the moment a reasonable person would believe that she is no longer free to leave. Still, this determination is so ambiguous that you should just simply refuse to talk at all. Then try to leave. If you are refused, then you know you are legally arrested no matter what they tell you.

All this talk about whether you are under arrest is important for this reason: what you say to police can be used against you, even if they fail to read you your rights, if you are NOT under arrest at the time you talk. I CANNOT OVERSTATE HOW OFTEN I HAVE HEARD POLICE TESTIFY THAT SOMEONE WHO EVENTUALLY CONFESSED, OR CONSENTED TO A SEARCH, WAS ALWAYS FREE TO LEAVE. YOU MUST CONSTANTLY ASK TO LEAVE, AND TRY TO LEAVE, UNLESS AND UNTIL YOU ARE ADVISED YOU ARE UNDER ARREST.

So……….if you cannot walk away because you have tried and they have stopped you, say two very important things and they MUST stop asking you questions: say “I want a lawyer now”, and say “I wish to remain silent.” The law requires you to be clear about these things – it is not good enough to say, “Do I need a lawyer?” And if you later tell them you do want to talk to them then your statements are admissible. Many cases exist where officers have interrogated people who have denied accusations for hours – days even – yet the suspects finally “break down” and give a statement. Cops will lie, and they will try to make you talk after you say these two things. But they cannot MAKE you say anything else. Just keep repeating these two things. Keep it simple. If you are arrested, say these two things and shut up.

Questioning on the Telephone

If you are uncomfortable talking to the police on the telephone, then politely but firmly say you do not wish to speak to them and hang up. IT IS LEGAL IN OKLAHOMA FOR A PARTY TO AUDIOTAPE PHONE CALLS WITHOUT TELLING THE OTHER PARTY THAT THE CALL IS BEING TAPED. [See 13 O.S. 176.4(5), The Oklahoma Security of Communications Act]. Accordingly, you should be very, very cautious about making any statement to anyone on the phone. Ever.

The Waiver of Rights Form

Finally, NEVER sign a waiver of rights. Typically, police will talk someone into signing the rights waiver and then talk them into making a confession. Two officers will good cop – bad cop you into this, and the U.S. Supreme Court permits law enforcement to LIE to get a statement. Police departments spend substantial money on expensive seminars to learn how to get people to sign these rights waivers.

NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER sign a waiver. ALWAYS refuse to speak. ALWAYS demand a lawyer.

How much will it cost to get a friend of loved one out of jail?

A bond will be set by a judge in all but only a few types of crimes in Oklahoma. In order to get someone out of jail you will need to either post the entire bond in cash, pay a bondsman to post the bond for you, or post a property bond. With bonds over $1,000 most bondsmen charge 10% of the total bond. If it is a $10,000 bond you would be required to pay the bondsman $1,000 to get out. You do not get that money back.

For bonds that exceed $25,000 or so, bondsmen often require collateral for the remaining 90% that is not paid in cash. They will require a quit claim deed for real property, for example. The real property will be deeded back when the bond is exonerated.

If you can afford to post the entire amount of the bond

How can I get someone out of jail with out paying a bondsman?

Most people do not know that in many situations you can place a real property bond to get someone out of jail instead of paying a bondsman. You must own real property and you are at risk of losing that property if the person you bond out skips. On the other hand, this does avoid losing your 10-15% cash. This may save you thousands of dollars. Contact me or your local County Court Clerk’s office for more details.

How can I find out my new court date or if charges have been filed against me?

If you have forgotten your court date or if you want to know whether charges have been filed against an individual you can call the Court Clerk’s office of the County or City court where the case is pending. You may also be able to find out your new court date or if charges have been filed by searching the “Court Dockets” section on the Oklahoma Supreme Court Network.

How can I find out if I have a warrant for my arrest?

You can call the law enforcement agency that you think may have a warrant out for your arrest and they will be able to tell you. You may also be able to find out on-line by going to the Oklahoma Supreme Court Network, Oklahoma District Court Records, or if the warrant was issued by the City of Tulsa you can go to the Tulsa Police Department website.

Do I have to allow the police to search my vehicle?

No!

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and § 2 of the Oklahoma Constitution prohibit the government from conducting unreasonable searches and seizures. Courts determine reasonableness in this context by balancing the State’s interest against the individual’s interest to be secure from unwarranted governmental intrusion.

Because the stop of a vehicle on a public roadway always constitutes a seizure, an officer must have specific articulable facts and reasonable inferences that criminal activity has occurred, is occurring, or is about to occur to justify the stop.

People do not understand we have these constitutional rights to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. The law says that warrantless searches are presumptively unreasonable. However, there is a handful of exceptions to this warrant requirement for a search, and a citizen’s consent to a search is one exception. But when you refuse to consent to the search without a warrant, your refusal CANNOT be used against you in court. So you lose nothing by just saying no.

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol, a county sheriff, or a police officer can ask for consent of the person in control of a vehicle to search the vehicle. I advise people to very politely say no thank you. When I am asked this [which is rare because law enforcement sees my bar card when they see my driver’s license], I say, “It’s a terribly generous offer, Sir, but no thank you. Unless I am under arrest I will be on my way now. “

It is possible that the officer will call a drug sniff dog to the scene if you refuse to consent. Or he may get a search warrant from a judge. If the officer keeps you on the side of the road, he MUST have probable cause to believe a crime has been committed. And if he keeps you on the side of the road – do not consent to the search – use that time to call a lawyer. [See this December 2006 case to tell you just about everything you want to know about Oklahoma traffic stops and your rights.]

Finally, an officer CAN demand that you exit your vehicle during a routine traffic stop. However, an officer CANNOT pat you down for weapons or drugs during a routine traffic stop unless and until he has established certain legally-established suspicions that you are armed AND dangerous. If an officer tries to pat you down you should permit this. But if he finds something illegal it cannot be used against you if the pat down was unlawful.

Do I have to allow the police to search my house?

Not without a warrant unless the circumstances are very unusual.

If they ask for consent to search a home, apartment, motel room, or even your room where you are staying as an overnight guest, then politely decline. Your refusal to consent cannot be used against you if they find something in your house that is used to charge you with a crime. The law affords very special protection from searches to these places. If they want to get a warrant after you refuse to consent to a search, then let them get a warrant. A good lawyer will later inspect the legality of the search warrant. A warrant is not necessarily legal just because a judge issues a warrant. Judges are wrong every day, appellate courts overturn local judges every day, and a good lawyer will work to insure the warrant issued by such a judge was lawful.

There are some circumstances in which officers can search a home without a warrant and witout consent. If the police insist on doing this you must let them. Do not obstruct them. Call a lawyer immediately if you can. And make absolutely no statement to them.