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Utah Criminal Case - Initial Stages - Police Investigation

When allegations of a crime are reported to police, an investigation will normally follow. Depending on the nature and seriousness of the crime alleged, a police investigation may take years to complete, or it may be a simple matter of taking a report or statement from a single witness. The investigation may involve the collection of physical evidence, photographing the scene to preserve a record of the conditions, preserving video recordings from surveillance cameras in the area, interviewing potential witnesses, or interrogation of the defendant.

Regardless of the nature of the crime, there are certain important rights guaranteed to both potential suspects and witnesses. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help ensure that your rights are protected. Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation with Stephen Howard.

Suspect Rights During Police Investigations

Fifth Amendment Protections

The Fifth Amendment provides one of the most important rights guaranteed to a person during a police investigation - the privilege against self-incrimination, or right to remain silent. When invoking this right, it is important to do more than just refuse to talk. A person should expressly and specifically invoke his or her Fifth Amendment rights.

In most instances, a defendant's silence when confronted by police cannot be used as evidence at trial. But under recent United States Supreme Court case precedent, there are certain rare circumstances when a prosecutor may inform the jury that the defendant refused to speak with police. To avoid this risk, a suspect should state clearly that he is invoking his Fifth Amendment privileges and is requesting that he be allowed to consult with his attorney prior to any further questioning. This should prevent the prosecutor from using the defendant's silence against him at trial.

Police investigators receive extensive training in interviewing techniques designed to pull information from suspects and witnesses. If police have identified a person as a suspect in a criminal investigation, it is rare that anything that suspect tells police will help him. More often, statements made by the suspect to police become some of the most damaging evidence used by the prosecutor in the case.

There are circumstances when speaking with police may work to the benefit of a criminal defendant. But without the assistance of a criminal defense attorney to analyze the situation and help determine the potential risks and benefits of talking to police, a suspect puts himself at great risk in agreeing to talk with police.

Fourth Amendment Protections

In addition to the right to remain silent, a defendant also has the right to refuse to allow the police to search his person or property under his control or ownership. When police  believe that evidence of a crime may be found directly on a person, or in a person's car, home, business, or other property owned by or controlled by that person, police will normally be required to obtain a warrant. There are certain exceptions to the warrant requirement, which may allow the police to conduct a search or seizure without a warrant.

One of the most common exceptions to the warrant requirement involves obtaining consent from the person in control of the property which the police intend to search. The owner or driver of a vehicle, the owner or resident of a home, a person who rents a storage unit, a guest staying in a hotel room - all of these individuals may give consent and allow the police to conduct a search of the premises without requiring the police to obtain a warrant. But each of these individuals also has the right to refuse consent.

The Right to Counsel

Whether a person is a suspect in a criminal case or a potential witness in the case, our Constitution guarantees each person charged with a crime the right to obtain counsel from an attorney. The importance of the assistance of counsel applies beyond just the court trial.

A person also has the right to speak with an attorney before answering questions for police. A person also would be well-advised to seek the assistance of an experienced criminal lawyer in determining whether to consent to a police search or in deciding whether to cooperate with police as an informant. Failure to consult with an experienced attorney during the initial stages of a potential criminal case could result in important rights being waived, or lead to critical strategic errors that could adversely affect the case later on.

Next: Arrest / Citation / Summons
Previous: Main Outline of Utah Criminal Case Processes

Choosing a Utah Criminal Defense Attorney in Salt Lake

Finding the right criminal defense lawyer to handle your case can be critical to the success of your case. Based in Salt Lake City, criminal defense attorney Stephen Howard has a track record that includes not guilty verdicts, dismissals, and appellate reversals on some of the most serious charges on the books in Utah. He has the experience necessary to ensure that your rights are protected.

Contact us today to arrange for an initial consultation.


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Serving Salt Lake, Davis, Weber, Utah, Cache, Tooele, Summit, Box Elder, and Wasatch Counties, and all of Utah.

Attorney Stephen Howard practices as part of the Canyons Law Group, LLC and Stephen W. Howard, PC.

Offices in Salt Lake and Davis Counties
560 South 300 East, Suite 200, Salt Lake City, UT 84111
952 S. Main St., Suite A, Layton, UT 84041

Call now to arrange for a confidential initial consultation with an experienced and effective Utah criminal defense lawyer.

In Salt Lake City, call 801-449-1409.
In Davis County, call 801-923-4345.

Stephen W. Howard, PC

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