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Common Criminal Law myths:

Myth 1 – The officer didn't show me his radar, so my ticket will be dismissed...

Wrong. Law enforcement officers are trained to be able to estimate vehicle speed by sight within a couple miles per hour. They are also trained in the use of several speed detection devices that are used to corroborate their estimation of a driver's speed to support enforcement action they may take. There is no right to request to see any speed detection device. Any questions as to the methods and techniques used by the officer would have to be challenged in court. They are not required to "try the case" standing on the side of the road. And no, radar detectors do not work...

Myth 2 – If a law enforcement officer approaches you, you have to talk to them...

Wrong. Law enforcement officers are trained to use a variety of methods to get you to speak to them. These methods vary depending on the circumstance from friendly contacts in public to highly confrontational methods during an investigation. Often, law enforcement  officers will ask suggestive questions, appeal to a sense of morality and duty, or offer to "help" by talking with the prosecutor or make other empty promises. Sometimes, you may be isolated from others, they may appeal to your fears, or they may threaten additional charges if you don't talk to them. You have the absolute right to remain silent under the 5th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution without facing legal consequences for doing so. However, this does not give someone the right to be disrespectful or boisterous or threatening to a law enforcement officer. Also, specifically in North Carolina, there is a statute that requires that you produce your driver's license if you are stopped by a law enforcement officer for a traffic violation. Youtube videos and pop tv have caused many people to mistakenly believe they do not have to produce their driver license. 

Myth 3 – I wasn't read my Miranda rights, so my case will be dismissed...

Wrong. Miranda "warnings" came from the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 346 (1966). The common misconception, often fueled by tv shows and movies, is that a law enforcement officer is required to immediately tell a suspect their Miranda rights, sometimes even while they are wrestling someone to the ground. That is not the legal requirement under Miranda. A law enforcement officer is only required to advise someone of their Miranda rights if two conditions are met: (1) the person is under arrest or in police custody such that they are not free to leave, and (2) the person is being interrogated, meaning being directly questioned about a particular crime or event under investigation. This does not include being asked background or identifying information such as name, date of birth, or address. A violation of Miranda violates a person’s 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination under the U.S Constitution. However, the remedy for a violation is typically the exclusion of any incriminating statements or incriminating evidence obtained from a statement; not an automatic dismissal of the charges.  

Myth 4 – Why should I hire a private attorney, pubic defenders are free...

Not exactly. Public Defenders are often dedicated and highly skilled attorneys that have chosen to dedicate their career to public service. While Public Defenders are often very dedicated to their clients, they carry very large caseloads. Also, one must be considered "indigent" by the court to be eligible for a public defender. Their services are intended to provide legal representation to eligible criminal defendants that face charges that may carry active jail time, but cannot afford a private attorney. But they cannot represent everyone. As for attorney's fees, in North Carolina, if you are convicted or plead guilty to the offense you are facing, part of the sentence is often a requirement to reimburse the State for the cost of the public defender. 

Myth 5 – This was all a misunderstanding, the "victim" does not want to press charges, so the case will be dismissed...

Possibly, but not always. A criminal charge is considered an offense against the people of the State. The District Attorney represents all "people" of the State. And sometimes the State is considered the victim, not an actual person. A "victim" in a criminal case is merely a witness for the State. They are not a "client" and they do not make the determination if a criminal proceeding will go forward. Often times it may be difficult, if not impossible, for the State to obtain a conviction without a cooperating "victim," but not always. If law enforcement was involved or if there are other witnesses available, a criminal case could still be pursued by the prosecutor even without the "victim." For example, this is the case in every murder prosecution. Lastly, if there is any indication that the "victim" (or any other witness) was approached or harassed or even threatened, there could be additional charges related to tampering with a witness, violating pre-trial no contact orders, communicating threats, or obstruction of justice.  

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