Frequently Asked Questions
What should I do if the police ask to search (me or my property)?
The answer is always, "No." Law enforcement is under no duty to advise you of your rights in order to search you or your property. If you consent to a search request you give up one of the most important constitutional rights you have - your Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.
While you do have the right to refuse to be searched or have your property searched, there are situations where law enforcement can search you or your property without your consent. If you do not consent to being searched by law enforcement, you should clearly tell the police that you do not want to be searched. If law enforcement has a search warrant, ask for a copy of the warrant.
What should I do if the police question me?
If you are in custody and questioned by law enforcement, it is essential to keep in mind the Miranda warnings: “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can be used against you in court. You have the right to talk to a lawyer first, and you have the right to the advice and presence of a lawyer during questioning even though you cannot afford to hire one. If you cannot afford to hire a lawyer and want to have one present during questioning the court will appoint one.” Be advised that unless you have hired a lawyer, the procedure in Montgomery County is that if you qualify you will be appointed a lawyer after your first court appearance (72-hour hearing, that is if you are still in jail because you cannot make bond).
State clearly that you wish to have an attorney present during any questioning. If law enforcement continues to question you after you have requested an attorney, repeat your request for an attorney and otherwise remain silent. You do not have to answer questions without your lawyer present.
What should I do if a family member or friend is arrested?
If a family member or friend is in jail, the most important thing you can tell them is:
How do I get a public defender to represent me if I'm in custody after I'm arrested?
If you are in custody, you will be brought to court within 72 hours of your arrest for your First Appearance or 72-Hour Hearing. At this court date, the judge will state the charges pending against you and the amount of your bail. You will be represented by a public defender at this hearing. The judge will also hear argument from the public defender representing you at this hearing whether your bail should be lowered considering the factors listed in Rule 7.2 of the Alabama Rules of Criminal Procedure.
Before this hearing, you will have an opportunity to receive assistance at the jail from the Public Defender's Office with completing a financial affidavit (for the court to determine whether you are financially eligible for appointed counsel), and a motion to the court requesting a preliminary hearing and a bond hearing (just in case you are still in custody on your next court date), and consideration of the appointment of counsel.
How do I get a public defender to represent me if I'm out of custody after I'm arrested?
If you make bond before you are taken before the court for the First Appearance or 72-Hour Hearing, the Public Defender will send a letter to your address on file with the court letting you know that we are here to assist you with completing a financial affidavit (for the court to determine whether you are financially eligible for appointed counsel), and a motion to the court requesting a preliminary hearing and an attorney. It is important that these documents are filed with the court as soon as possible after your arrest, because you only have 30 days from the date of arrest to request a preliminary hearing.
What is a preliminary hearing and is it important?
Yes, it is important because it is the first opportunity to learn what evidence is against you and challenge it. At a preliminary hearing, or probable cause hearing, the prosecutor must show that there is enough evidence to charge you. Your preliminary hearing will typically be set approximately two weeks after arrest on either a Thursday afternoon at 1 p.m. or Friday morning at 8 a.m. You must request this hearing, in writing, within 30 days from the date of your arrest. The Public Defender's Office can assist you with this written request if you call us at (334)265-1783 or come by the office at 305 S. lawrence Street to be interviewed.