Frequently Asked Questions

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

Police Questioning In Person

It is impossible to adequately convey how many cases are lost because a suspect gave a statement to the police.  “Confessions”, “admissions against interest’, or just a mere “statement” to law enforcement: a big body of law has grown up around when such utterances can be used against the person that made them.  And in the last 10 years, the U.S. Supreme Court [SCOTUS] has complicated it.

There was a time when it was adequate to advise people to simply not talk.  If you say nothing it cannot be used against you.  In fact, for years I told people who knew they were innocent to be very cautious because once you open your mouth, it’s up to the police/FBI/county deputy to honestly report what you said.  And no matter what your political persuasion these days, there is adequate evidence that this may be a fool’s errand.  So here, I try to make an increasingly complicated area of the law understandable.

Most of us know from TV what Miranda warnings are: ““You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.”  This right arises from a SCOTUS case, Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 [1966] and for a long time it meant exactly what it said; however, you had to be in police custody before you had this right.  You have to understand what “in custody” means before anything else can be understood.  See this page for a discussion of this complicated term.

Now, in general, if you are in the custody of law enforcement, the cops must Mirandize you before questioning you.  If they do not, your incriminating statement cannot be used against you.  See Doyle v. Ohio, 426 U.S. 610 [1976] and Wood v. State of Oklahoma, 748 P.2d 523 [1987][¶12].  However, if you are in custody, they Mirandize you yet you try to talk your way through it, whatever you say can be used against you.

Simple? It gets complicated.  In Salinas v. Texas, 133 U.S. 2174 [2013], the law was refined, emphasizing the in custody requirement and the requirement that you cannot simply say nothing in response to police questioning to avoid consequences.  Salinas says you have to actually say out loud, “I want to remain silent. I want a lawyer.”  If you just clam up up, your refusal to talk can be admitted against you! SO, they get you coming and going if you are not alert and smart.  Say nothing, and your silence can be heard by a judge or jury and used to suggest guilt; if you talk, then what you say is now in the hands of cops to bend and twist.  That is the law now.

So. The law requires you to be clear. Please, help you lawyer by being smart.  Keep it simple.  If you are questioned by police, say these two things – “I want a lawyer, I want to remain silent” – and shut up. if you are pressed, you must have the strength to say these two things over and over.  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 subsequent statements become 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.

Police 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?

A couple of answers, but we have fewer privacy rights in our car than in our home.    First, an officer will normally try to get your consent to search your vehicle before just doing it.  You do not have to consent and I advise you politely decline: “Thank you for asking, sir, but no thank you, I do not consent to a search of my car.”  Second, if an officer has probable cause,  and can establish an urgency, he can search the car without a warrant and without your consent.  This is why he wants your consent – so he does not later have to show probable cause to a judge.

It is possible that the officer will call a drug sniff dog to the scene if you refuse to consent to a search. Or he may get a search warrant from a judge. If the officer keeps you on the side of the road longer than is required to get done what he stopped you to do, 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 occupants exit a vehicle during a routine traffic stop. Many people fight this and it’s a BIG mistake.  Refusing to follow COMMANDS from a cop anywhere can escalate things quickly.  Remember, refusing to consent is not the same as refusing to obey a command.  Also, 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. AGAIN, if an officer tries to pat you down you should permit this – just do not consent to it. 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. Frankly, I have successfully dismissed too many serious felonies to count because there was a defect in a search warrant.

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.