Frequently Asked Questions
The criminal defense Law Office of Timothy S. Note, PLLC provides the answers to questions frequently encountered as we assist people who have been arrested and charged with crime in Spokane, Airway Heights, Spokane Valley, and all of eastern Washington. We hope the following information is helpful to you. If you have other questions or need immediate assistance from a qualified and experienced criminal defense lawyer, please contact the Law Office of Timothy S. Note, PLLC.
Q. What should I do if I am stopped by the police?
A. It is always a good idea to be courteous and polite, and to not make any sudden or threatening moves that might make the police think you are going for a weapon. Stops are stressful moments for the police just as they are for the person who is stopped, and making the police more stressed is not going to be helpful to your situation.
If you are in a vehicle, the police may ask you to step out of the vehicle, and you are required to do so. They may conduct a pat-down search of your person to make sure you do not have a weapon, and they may conduct a weapons search of the area within your immediate reach as well. Beyond that, they generally cannot conduct a search without a warrant (but see below). You do not have to consent to a search or answer questions, and it is generally advisable to withhold such consent. However, you should cooperate with other directions by the police. For instance, if the police tell you they have the right to search, you should not try to obstruct them even if you think they are wrong. Your attorney can raise objections to any illegal searches or seizures at the proper time with the appropriate authorities.
Q. What if the police have not arrested me, but just want to ask me some questions?
A. It is almost never in your interest to submit to police questioning without having your attorney present, or at least consulting with your lawyer beforehand. If the police are asking you questions, it is because they suspect you are guilty, and they want you to incriminate yourself. All of your answers will be viewed from that perspective, so that no matter what you say, the police or prosecutor will try to find a way to use it against you. When in doubt, ask to speak with your attorney before answering.
Q. When can the police search me or my belongings without a warrant?
A. All searches must be reasonable in order to be constitutional. In most cases, this means a warrant is required, but there are several exceptions. For instance, police may seize evidence which is in plain view in a place where they are lawfully allowed to be. Certain searches or inventories may be conducted pursuant to a lawful arrest. A warrant is usually required to enter a home, but if the police are pursuing a fleeing felon, they may follow the suspect into a dwelling in certain circumstances. Perhaps most importantly, the police may search without a warrant if they have your permission to do so. It is important to know that you have a right to withhold this consent, and it is generally advisable that you do so until you have spoken with your attorney.
Q. Can I refuse to take an alcohol or drug test when pulled over by the police?
A. By acquiring a driver's license, you have given your informed consent to submit to testing when required by the police. If you refuse to submit to a test, you are subject to penalties the same as if you took a test and blew a BAC of .15% or more. These penalties are much more severe than taking the test and being found DUI with a BAC of .08% or more.