Dealing with law enforcement is usually a minor inconvenience for most people, often the result of being in a hurry or failing to observe traffic signs. However, when things stop being minor and start sounding more serious, it's important that you have a firm understanding of your rights during any official interaction with police. Procedural police dramas might be popular television, but they very rarely get everything right.
Remember, It's Their Job
For the vast majority of law enforcement officers, it's nothing personal. They're tasked with enforcing the law, preserving public safety, and investigating in the event that they have probable cause to suspect a crime. As a result, the less personally you take it, the smoother the entire interaction will go. That means be as polite, courteous and respectful as you possibly can be, even if you're being charged with something more serious than a traffic ticket.
What this doesn't mean is that you should simply hand over free control of your person or your property. If you are under investigation you have certain rights, such as the right to legal representation and to be informed of what you're being investigated for. These rights are immediately enforceable as soon as law enforcement informs you that you're no longer free to go. If that status change occurs, your right to an attorney can't be infringed upon.
Your Attorney's Role and Your Obligation
While most official interactions with law enforcement won't require an attorney, if charges are mentioned or things become serious, confusing, intimidating or frightening, don't hesitate to make the request. Your attorney's role at this point is to ensure that your rights as a free citizen aren't in jeopardy. If things escalate, their role is to ensure that procedures are followed, due process is observed and your rights are represented.
During any police interaction you do have certain obligations, such as identifying yourself when asked or providing proof that you are legally operating a motor vehicle. Alternately, you're not obligated to provide any further information or respond to any other questions, though doing so can have both positive and negative results. Once again, it's all about being respectful.
In the event that you end up needing a criminal attorney like Mark Battaglia, P.C., regardless of how serious the charges, make your request early and be firm about it. The sooner your lawyer can be present the more they can do to protect you and improve your situation.