Prince George’s County Criminal Investigations

There are many different aspects of Prince George’s County criminal investigations that a person charged with an offense should consider. An aggressive criminal defense lawyer could examine the factors and potential risks associated with a person’s case to help build a strategic legal defense. If you or a family member were accused of a criminal offense, it may be wise to seek legal counsel immediately and abstain from issuing any statements to police officers. Any information given to police following an arrest could significantly and negatively impact a person’s ability to defend themselves against criminal charges. Contact an attorney today and schedule an appointment as soon as possible to begin exploring your legal options.

Individual Rights When Interacting with Law Enforcement

Regardless of the circumstances, a person should be aware of their rights when interacting with law enforcement, especially if they are under investigation. Something that a person may think is unimportant or small could actually be quite influential over their case. As a result, it may be highly valuable for someone who is under an investigation by police to become well-versed in their constitutional rights.

Home Visits

When an officer shows up to someone’s door, in Prince George’s County and anywhere in the state of Maryland, the resident is under no obligation to invite them in or allow them in unless the officers show a warrant.

It is generally not in a person’s best interest to have a conversation with any officer for any reason without an attorney present. Whether the individual is guilty or innocent does not matter. As a general practice, police officers take information, ask questions, and write reports. The reports typically go directly to the office of the state’s attorney. This transfer of information could create the risk of having information taken out of context and weaponized against a person at a potential trial. Furthermore, if a person says something and accidentally contradicts themselves later it could be incredibly damaging to their credibility throughout the rest of the Prince George’s County criminal investigation.

Refusing Entry

When an officer asks to be let inside, the person should ask them if they have a warrant. If the police officer does not have a warrant, the individual could say no and explain they need their attorney present before speaking with them.

A person should not let police into their home because an officer will generally look around. While they may not be there with a search warrant, they may note items left out in plain sight and come back with a warrant. If law enforcement works to find enough probable cause for a warrant, that typically means they are seriously investigating a person of interest. Someone under investigation does not always know when such scrutiny begins and interacting with police without proper legal representation could be detrimental, especially if it is within an individual’s private residence.

Things to Know When Stopped in a Vehicle

In Prince George’s County and anywhere in the state of Maryland, if someone is pulled over, they generally have lesser rights than they do in most other places. A driver of a vehicle is typically presumed to know the vehicle front to back. Additionally, automobile needs to be registered and all headlights and brake lights on a person’s vehicle should be functional. These stipulations about maintenance and functionality extend to the driver regardless of their connection to vehicle ownership.

Probable Cause During Vehicle Stops

Once a person is pulled over and an officer comes to the window, they are typically asked to roll down the window. If an odor, such as the smell of marijuana or alcohol is present, an officer generally has probable cause to search the vehicle. This could lead to an arrest for possession of marijuana or a drunk driving offense. Additionally, if a person is already being investigated for another offense, anything found during the search could potentially be admissible in court.

Circumstances When a Person May Revoke Consent of a Vehicle Search

Depending on the circumstances, a person may object to a search in very limited situations. If the vehicle is in the driveway of a home and police officers come to search the home and they ask about the vehicle, the person generally should refuse consent and make sure that the warrant includes the vehicle. If the warrant does not include the vehicle, law enforcement typically will need to return with a new warrant. However, if a person is stopped with probable cause while driving their vehicle, they may not be able to legally revoke consent.

Revoking consent to a search based on the inapplicability of a warrant does not usually impact the welfare of the case. If the police are going to investigate a person of interest, the individual should allow them to conduct their investigation and not attempt to interfere with it. In spite of that, a person should not help them, assist them, or give away information for which the police would otherwise need a warrant.

Types of Searches

There are several types of searches that law enforcement may conduct with a warrant or in conjunction with probable cause. Some of the most common searches include:

  • personal search
  • vehicle search
  • home search

When Prince George’s County criminal investigations require search warrants, they are typically brought to a judge for approval. Searches performed without probable cause or without a warrant may be ruled unconstitutional and the evidence collected in such searches may be suppressed.

Obtaining a Search Warrant for a Home

In order to search a home, the warrant generally needs to be signed by a judge for a specific home and include the address, location, and information supporting the need for the search. When all those things have been done properly and the warrant is signed, then the police can search the home.

The only exception to needing a signed warrant is if there is an ongoing felony occurring in the house. Additionally, if the alleged perpetrator of a felony fled into a house, the police are typically within their power to follow that individual into the residence without a warrant. This exception was largely created to strengthen law enforcement’s ability to retrieve evidence that may be disposed of quickly and as well as heighten their ability to apprehend the fleeing individual.

Searching a Vehicle with a Warrant

Usually, the search of a vehicle is different in that a vehicle is an item. If there is significant suspicion of a crime, such as a person fleeing police in the vehicle or a canine signals the presence of an illegal substance, then the police may be able to search the vehicle without a warrant. Precedent rulings generally stipulate that such a search has to be within a reasonable time-frame. They cannot make the person sit on location for two or three hours before they get the canine to search the vehicle. The police often have numerous restrictions with which they must comply in order for these searches to be considered proper.

Potential Strategies to Avoid Questioning

A police officer may attempt to conduct an interview or ask a person a question in a confident or authoritarian manner. However, an individual is not required to answer. Many people believe the misconception that they need to respond, but a person generally only needs to hand them their license and registration silently.

If it is a DUI stop, police may ask them to step out of the vehicle to perform field sobriety tests. If that is the case, the person could potentially open their door, step out of the vehicle, close the door, hand them the keys, and decline to take the tests. If police officers request a breathalyzer or some other type of breath test, a person could simply decline.

When is a Person Detained?

If someone is pulled over, the lights on the police vehicles alone generally instruct them to pull to the side of the road, that is one example of being detained.

During such an incident, if a person attempts to drive away this could lead to a chase and they could be charged with fleeing and eluding police upon arrest.

In addition to this scenario, if a person is asked to exit the vehicle or is told to sit on the curb, they are generally being held and are not free to leave. When a person is placed in an officer’s car, they are also typically being detained.

Elements Frequently Involved in the Arrest Process

When a person is arrested, they should not resist or attempt to flee. While it is an uncomfortable and frustrating situation resisting arrest could result in significant bodily danger. Additionally, cooperating with the arrest could lessen the police’s ability to try to paint someone as a threat to public safety.

After a person is arrested during a Prince George’s County criminal investigation, they are typically handcuffed, placed into a police vehicle by officers, and transported to the police state for further processing. When they arrive at the station, the person usually will be informed of their charges, read their Miranda rights, and taken in front of a commissioner.

Depending on the level of charges, they may find the commissioner willing to hear out a reason to release them or the commissioner could elect to leave that decision to a judge. The person generally will be given a bond hearing on the next weekday, or later if a holiday interferes with that schedule. Generally, the police try to process the person and get them to a bond hearing rather quickly in Prince George’s County. If someone is picked up on a warrant, they often will have a hearing the next day. In most cases, the commissioner has the right to release the person, and they can do it in a number of ways.

Categories of Release

One type of release that a commissioner may grant is called a release on personal recognizance. This basically means that they release the person with the expectation that they will return on their own to court on a specified date.

Another category of release is referred to as an unsecured bond which is often worth $5,000 or $10,000. When someone is released on an unsecured bond this means that the person will owe that much money if they do not show up in court. An accused person could potentially get a bondsman to put down 10 percent in order to be released. The commissioner could also place a person in house arrest or home detention. There are a number of other types of releases which may apply to a person who is arrested following a Prince George’s County criminal investigation.

Partnering with a Lawyer to Gain Release

A lawyer could also assist in the release process by potentially arguing that if a person were placed in a detention facility it would limit their ability to formulate a proper defense. When a person is in a detention facility, it often limits their ability to have continuous and private contact with their attorney. While a person who is in custody could be granted one-on-one visits with their attorney, there is generally a risk that someone could overhear the conversation.

Aspects a Judge or Commissioner Might Consider in a Release Hearing

Since building a credible defense is incredibly important to the welfare of a person’s case, it is best to approach release hearings in a well-prepared manner. The judge and commissioner generally weigh several aspects when deciding whether to grant bond, including a person’s criminal history and the reason a person may be requesting release.

They may also check whether the person has a conviction on their record, whether they have any incidents related to this charge and their conduct with the police. This is generally why the person should be respectful, sign the required paperwork, and cooperate with the arrest, since that could impact whether or not they will be released on bond. An accused person usually wants to make sure that the police have no reason to consider them violent, a threat to society, or liable to flee if released. The person typically should let the arrest take place, let their attorney handle the details, and should not give officers any reason to charge them with anything else.

Investigation Process Following an Arrest

After an arrest, the police often continue to do a number of things, one of which is to further their investigation by following up. Take the example of a vehicle. Many officers wear body cameras, so they typically will collect footage from those body cameras as well as any 911 recordings and eyewitness statements.

If the alleged incident involves a further investigation such as that related to a domestic assault, a general assault, malicious destruction of property, or theft, to the police will do follow up with the complainant. They also may follow up with medical or banking personnel in order to obtain substantive proof of the alleged offense.

Evidence Submission

Furthermore, in the district court, the state can supplement discovery until the date of trial. A person could potentially walk into court on their trial date and the state could turn over a body camera or a banking report. The prosecutor could also ask for a postponement for further investigation, which if granted could delay a person’s trial. In contrast, a judge could set a hard deadline for discovery which may reduce an accused person’s ability to prepare their defense, as well as impede the state’s ability to prepare for the trial.

Advantages of Partnering with a Criminal Defense Lawyer

Lawyers run interference. If police are investigating someone for something and they want to have an opportunity to speak with the person, the person should never do it without a lawyer. Conversations without an attorney may put the person in a position to be charged or convicted. It is generally rare for these conversations to end well for the investigated person. While there are exceptions, it is possible that everything the person says in an attempt to prove themselves innocent may harm their case further. Attorneys are there to shut down these types of conversations and protect an accused individual. If a conversation takes place, they shut down questions. They may also help a person avoid answering dangerous questions or answering questions that have already answered. Often, the police ask the same questions a number of different ways in order to get the person to contradict themselves.

Contact a Knowledgeable Lawyer About Criminal Investigations in Prince George’s County

If you or someone you know is accused of a crime, it may be exceedingly helpful to learn about Prince George’s County criminal investigations. A dedicated criminal defense attorney could help explain the complexities of the criminal investigation process and work to identify weaknesses in the prosecution’s case. Call today and schedule an appointment to begin assessing your legal options.