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What are my rights as a criminal suspect?

People who find themselves facing criminal charges end up with a lot of questions, especially about their rights as a suspect. Knowing the answers to those questions ahead of time can make your legal defense much easier.

Is it illegal to not have my identification with me?

People operating any sort of motor vehicle must have a proper driver's license, and anyone in an establishment serving or selling alcohol must have legal identification that proves age. At other times, police may ask someone for his or her name, age and address but cannot arrest a U.S. citizen for failure to produce identification.

What's the best thing to do if a police officer stops me?

It is important to know your status when you are dealing with law enforcement. You can always ask if you are being detained. If you are not, you are free to go. It is never a good idea to flee from the police; it is better to contest a possible illegal detention later in the courts.

What if the police want to enter my home or take my things?

Police may search a person for dangerous weapons and may search a vehicle if they have good reason to believe it was involved in a crime. The only legal way for police to forcibly enter and search a home or private property is with a search or arrest warrant signed by a judge. If they seize anything, you must receive a receipt.

What's the best way to avoid a criminal conviction?

There is no single factor that makes a conviction less likely. It is generally advisable to seek legal representation if charged with a crime so you can be properly defended in court or plea bargaining.

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