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Know Your Rights

If you have a legal situation, whether it involves a minor traffic offense, a DUI or Underage Alcohol charge, a felony charge, or some type of civil dispute, it is critical that you know and protect your legal rights.  The law is filled with complicated provisions that may impact what you can do about your situation, and relying on the opposing side in a legal dispute to protect your rights is a mistake.  In short, whether or not you consult or hire Matt Karzen, LLC, you should consult an attorney.  Below are some areas of law involving various rights you may have.

  • Search & Seizure: You have the constitutional right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure.  If you were subjected to any form of law enforcement contact in your case, chances are you were, in the eyes of the law, detained, or "seized".  You may also have been 'patted down' or searched, or perhaps your car or house was searched.  If this took place without a warrant, then the government must prove that some established exception to the 'warrant requirement' applied, and that it had a legitimate basis, either 'reasonable suspicion' or 'probable cause' depending on the facts, to detain you or search.  There are a variety of important limitations on the length, nature and purpose of any detention or search.  When the government detains or searches without a warrant, and without reasonable suspicion or probable cause, that is illegal, and any evidence resulting from it must be thrown out.  This area of the law, called "search and seizure", is very complicated, and whether evidence will be thrown out or not often depends on subtle factual details and legal nuances, so it is critical that you recall for your attorney everything you can about your contact with law enforcement.
  • Statements:  You have several important rights under the 5th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, including the right not to incriminate yourself.  In other words, the government (police, prosecutor, even the judge) cannot make you talk and incriminate yourself.  If you were subjected to police contact, chances are you made statements of some type.  Those statements may not seem important to you, but they could end up being the key evidence in the government's case.  If you were not given a  'Miranda warning' prior to responding to police questions, your constitutional rights may have been violated.  Also, under Georgia law, statements made after the police held out some hope of benefit, or after you were threatened with some negative consequence, are considered 'involuntary'.  If that happened, any statements you made must be thrown out.  Whether and when the police must advise somebody of his or her 'Miranda' rights, and whether a statement is voluntary, also depends on subtle factual details and legal nuances.  Be sure to tell your attorney about ANYTHING you said to the police, and about ALL the circumstances surrounding your statement.
  • DUI: DUI cases can be surprisingly complex.  If you have been charged with DUI, there are multiple rights that come into play.  In addition to 'search and seizure' issues and issues involving statements to the police, there are several requirements imposed on the government regarding the procedures used during a DUI investigation:  Your case should be analyzed for compliance with those requirements.  Also, you may have been served with a 'notice of suspension' form and had your driver's license confiscated.  This 'administrative license suspension' involves a separate proceeding from the criminal charge of DUI, and there is a critical 10-day deadline that applies to the rights you have in connection with this suspension.  If you received a 'notice of suspension' form, you should read it immediately and contact an attorney.
  • Civil Matters: The state and federal constitutions, as well as the Georgia and United States Codes, provide a variety of legal protections applicable to civil disputes.  Just to name a few, there are laws protecting you from civil rights violations by government actors, defining landlord/tenant obligations, limiting what the Department of Family and Children's Services can do, and requiring insurance companies to deal with you in good-faith and provide certain information in a timely way, when requested.  The enforcement of these rights generally involves the imposition of monetary sanctions against the perpetrator, or obtaining a court order requiring or prohibiting certain conduct.  Also, if you have been sued, certain legal provisions may provide a complete or partial defense.  The law also imposes time limits within which certain types of lawsuits must be filed, or the claim may be lost forever.  If you believe you have a legal claim, you should act quickly to determine whether, and when, the 'statute of limitations' may run out.  For example, generally, a claim involving a personal injury must be filed within two years of the date the injury occurred.  If you decide to consult an attorney, it is better to do it sooner rather than later, to avoid losing your claim under a 'statue of limitations'.