Steven Cilenti

Attorney at Law

LAW OFFICE OF STEVEN CILENTI
601 Court Street
Suite 205
Jackson, CA 95642

ph: 209-223-5550
fax: 209-231-2601

Criminal Law

This is a web page that no one ever wants to be in a position to have to be reading but in today's world it is too easy to do something contrary to the law and not know it at the time.  There are so many laws that even lawyers and judges don't know or understand all of them.

Below are some of the commonly asked questions about arrests, the court process and your constitutional rights.

If after reading the questions and answers below, if you have more questions call the office to schedule an appointment to discuss your legal issues.  The consultation that I am able to provide does not require any consultation fees in answering your questions about criminal laws so don't hesitate to call.

WHAT IS AN ARREST?

When you are arrested, you are taken into custody. This means that you are not free to leave the scene. Without being arrested, however, you still could be 'detained' or held for questioning for a short time if a police officer believes you are or may be involved in a crime.

WHAT ARE MY RIGHTS?

You have constitutional rights if you are arrested. Before the law enforcement officer questions you, he or she should advise you:

  • You have the right to remain silent.
  • Anything you say may be used against you.
  • You have a right to have a lawyer present while you are questioned.
  • If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be appointed for you.

These are commonly known as your Miranda rights, guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. If you are not given these warnings, your lawyer can ask that any statements you made to the police not be used against you in court. But this does not necessarily mean that your case will be dismissed.  Issues of whether or not you were advised of your rights is very technical and the courts are eroding this right every day.

DOES AN OFFICER HAVE TO READ ME MY RIGHTS?

No, not always.  Only if you have been arrested AND if the officer is going to ask you questions about the situation that caused the arrest - BUT see my link regarding DUI's.

Officers often will delay your arrest and only 'detain' you to avoid having to read you your rights.  This is why it is important for you to understand that just because the officer hasn't read you your rights that you shouldn't be saying anything that may be incriminating.

If you believe that you COULD be arrested then tell the officer that you don't wish to talk without an attorney being present.  AND NO, invoiking your rights can NOT be used against you in court.

CAN AN OFFICER LIE TO ME?

Absolutely.  The officer may tell you that he or she knows facts that they do not; the officer can tell you that there are finger prints or other kinds inclriminating evidence and may even lie about eye witnesses that don't exist.

The law that prohibits you from giving false information to a law enforcement officer DOES NOT prohibit an officer from telling you lies to get you to talk or confess to something.

Insist on your constitutional rights - ALWAYS.

CAN AN OFFICER OFFER YOU LENIENCY IF YOU COOPERATE?

Yes, BUT - understand that the officer has no authority to grant any promises, which means that any promise of leniency in the court is another way to get you to talk and not demand an attorney.  Only the District Attorney can offer some agreement or promise of leniency not a law enforcement officer even if they work for the District Attorney.  Also, any promise of a District Attorney should be in writing and reviewed by your attorney.

CAN AN OFFICER TAPE RECORD MY STATEMENT WITHOUT TELLING ME?

Yes, they can.  Even if you ask if you are being recorded they don't have to tell you the truth that you are being recorded.  Understand that you have no legal right to record anyone without their consent.  In fact it is a crime if you do.  This same crime does not apply to law enforcement officers.

It is important for you to understand that the best evidence is your own incriminating words rather than what the officer thinks he remembers what you said.  Many officers use tiny digital recorders that you can't even see to record everything that you say.

Whether you think you are being recorded or not, what should you do?  ASK FOR AN ATTORNEY.  Yes, cooperate to the extent that you never physically resist an officer of the law.  But, you do not and should not ever give a statement that will end up being used against you in court.  Too many times I have read cases where officer's had no case until a person admitted to committing the crime - don't let that be you.  If in doubt, ask to speak to an attorney before you give any statements to any law enforcement officer.

ARE MY RIGHTS DIFFERENT IN A DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE CASE?

Yes and No.  First of all, when you got your driver's license you agreed that in a DUI case that you agree to take a blood, breath or urine test to determine if you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  However, that is all that you agreed to when you got your driver's license.

Read More about DUI's.

I WAS ARRESTED OR GIVEN A CITATION - NOW WHAT WILL HAPPEN?

First - call an attorney!  Most criminal law attorneys offer a free consultation free of charge to give you general information to assist you, whether you think your going to be arrested, have been arrested or were given a citation.

If you call my office, my staff will schedule a telephone or office appointment to discuss your situation.  I feel that it is important to you have your questions answered and very often I do this even if I know that eventually you will be unable to afford my legal services.

WHAT ARE MY COURT RIGHTS?

Most courts today will provide you a copy of your legal court rights at the time of your first court appearance.  Take the time to read these rights as they are important for you to understand.

If you schedule a consultation appointment in my office, I will give you a copy of your court rights before you get to court so that you can study and understand them before you get to court.  Often people are anxious about the court process and can't absorb all of the legal mumbo jumbo as they are sitting in court.

In my Special Links area I've included a sample Court Rights form.  Regardless of the court that you may be in, your rights in California remain the same.

I CAN'T AFFORD AN ATTORNY, WHAT SHOULD I DO?

Private Attorney do cost money.  Typically a private attorney may charge between $700 to $2000 to handle you case.  Considerations my be whether or not there will be a DMV hearing as well as other issues. Additionally, private attorney often offer more services than a public defender can offer.

If you can't afford a private attorney, The court can appoint an attorney (public defender) if you have no income or very little income but only if you are charged with a misdemeanor or a felony.  People with traffic citations are not entitled to free legal counsel.

HOWEVER, just because you tell the judge that you can't afford an attorney doesn't mean that you'll be appointed the public defender.  Every court has financial guidelines that you must meet.  Most generally, if your gross income is more than $2000 per month they you probably will not qualify for a public defender.

I DON'T WANT A PUBLIC DEFENDER AND AM NOT SURE I CAN AFFORD AN ATTORNEY; CAN YOU HELP?

Maybe.  Yes, I charge for my services but have some plans available for people that need to pay over time.  However, due to case load demands I am not always able to accept every case.

I know that many people are not happy with their public defender and I have heard many stories over the years.  I'm not in a position nor will I take a position about any public defender or the service that they provide.  However, I can explain to you your rights as it relates to your public defender - after all it is your case and only you can decide the path that your case takes in court.

Contact Us

At the above telephone or email address.

Our Office hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 Monday through Thursday and 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 noon on Fridays.

We are located at the corner of Court and Placer Streets in Jackson.

EMERGENCY CALLS may be handled after-hours, on weekends or holidays.  24 hour Answering Service.

Note - legal advice can not be provided by email due to legal requirements.

LAW OFFICE OF STEVEN CILENTI
601 Court Street
Suite 205
Jackson, CA 95642

ph: 209-223-5550
fax: 209-231-2601