Raleigh, NC Criminal Law FAQs

As a citizen, what are my legal rights and duties when dealing with police officers?

  • If you have been stopped for a traffic offense, you have an obligation to provide the police with your license and registration. If approached and questioned on the street, you must provide the officer with you name and address.

Do I have to answer a police officer’s questions? Can the police search my vehicle or home?

  • You are not required to answer any questions from a police officer, although the failure to answer questions during the early stage of an investigation or traffic stop may create suspicion and lead the officer to conduct further investigation. It is always advisable to contact an attorney when a police officer begins asking questions that may result in a criminal charge. You may be ordered to exit your vehicle during a traffic stop if police feel criminal activity has occurred. Be courteous and respectful with the police. Even if you feel the officer has acted illegally, follow the officer’s instructions to avoid a resist, delay or obstruct charge. You can always file a complaint later on.
  • Wake County Police are allowed to detain individuals briefly when investigating crime, and are also allowed to stop individuals who raise suspicion and frisk them for weapons. The period of this detention should be reasonable. Often the line between being “free to leave” from a temporary detention and being under arrest is murky. The best way to determine whether you are free to go is to ask the officer point blank if you are free to leave.
  • As a general rule, police officers are not allowed to search homes or vehicles without a search warrant. Exceptions to this rule are the following: police may conduct a search incident to the arrest of an individual; search property where the owner has consented to a search of the property; may seize illegal times that are in plain view; and enter homes or other property under exigent circumstances, such as when they are in hot pursuit of a fleeing suspect.

What should I do if I have been charged with a crime?

  • Whether you have been charged with a misdemeanor or a more serious offense, it is important that you speak with a lawyer as soon as possible. With misdemeanor offenses, often the difference between being arrested and simply being issued a citation for the offense is your behavior and cooperation with the officer.

What happens after I am arrested?

  • Once you are processed at the jail, you will be taken before a magistrate who will read the charges against you and set the conditions of release in the form of a written promise to appear, secured bond or unsecured bond. This is also when you will be allowed to make a phone call. Bond is a monetary condition of release that is used to compel your appearance in court and is determined by the seriousness of the offense, whether you have failed to appear in court previously, your contact to the community, criminal record and general attitude in front of the magistrate.
  • A first appearance will be set within 72 hours in front of a judge. At the first appearance you have the right to request court appointed counsel as well as to revisit the conditions of your release set by the magistrate. Your next court date will also be set by the judge.

If you have further questions or concerns please contact Curtis R. High, Attorney at Law today for a consultation.