The Law Office of Lex A. Johnson & Associates presents answers to questions frequently encountered by our attorneys as we represent clients in Chicago and the south suburbs in Cook County and DuPage County in the areas of criminal defense and real estate law. If you have other questions or need assistance in a criminal law or real estate matter, please contact the Law Office of Lex A. Johnson & Associates to speak with one of our experienced lawyers.

Do I have to let the police into my home for a search? Can the police search my car without a warrant?

Searches are governed by the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which above all requires that any search be reasonable under the circumstances. In most instances, the police must have probable cause to conduct a search, usually backed up by a warrant, although probable cause is not always required, and neither is a warrant. There are many exceptions to the warrant requirement, and it is much easier for the police to search your car than your home.

For the most part, the police know the law very well. If they tell you they have a right to search and that they are going to search, it is best to cooperate and not try to obstruct them. If their search was illegal in any way, your attorney will bring this up at the proper time and hopefully have any evidence suppressed or even have the case dismissed. One thing you never have to do, however, is give your consent to a search. If the police ask you if they may search your home, your car, your purse or bag, or yourself, you have the right to refuse, and you should almost always do so. The police always have the right to conduct a search if you allow them to. If they are asking for your consent, they probably don’t have another basis for a search, and there is really no good reason to consent to a search, even if you are convinced you have nothing to hide. When in doubt, ask to speak to your attorney first.

Do I have to take a DUI test?

By obtaining a driver’s license and driving on the roads, you have given your implied consent to submit to chemical testing of your blood-alcohol concentration, usually with a breath test, when pulled over by the police. You cannot be forced to submit to testing, but if you refuse, your license will be immediately suspended, and the period of suspension is longer than if you had taken the test and failed.

Besides a chemical test of your blood-alcohol concentration, the police may ask you take a field sobriety test. These are things like walking a straight line, touching your nose with your eyes closed, saying the alphabet or counting backward, etc. You are not required by law to perform these tests and are generally within your rights to refuse to take them.

If I refuse to answer questions, will that make me look guilty?

If the police are asking you questions, the chances are that they already suspect you of committing a crime; otherwise, they wouldn’t be asking you questions in the first place. The whole point of police questioning is to turn up evidence of a crime or evidence that can be used against you in court. They are more interested in confirming you as a suspect than in eliminating you as one. This does not have to be testimony that incriminates you. Even if you are totally innocent, through extensive police questioning you may eventually say something that apparently contradicts something you said earlier, and the police can use this to make you look guilty of a crime.

The way to avoid this is to refuse to answer questions without your lawyer present. This is your right, guaranteed by the Constitution, and your exercise of this right cannot be used against you. When questioned by the police, whether you are under arrest and in custody or temporarily stopped, be polite but firm, and tell the police that you want to speak to your attorney before you answer any questions.

What is the difference between a short sale and a deed in lieu of foreclosure?

If you cannot afford to keep up with your mortgage payments and are facing foreclosure, simply allowing the bank to foreclose and take your house is rarely a good idea; besides having that foreclosure on your credit report, you can still be liable to the bank for any amount owed on the mortgage that is not satisfied when the bank sells your home.

If you negotiate a deed in lieu, you are walking away from your house and letting the bank take it, but the bank has agreed not to foreclose or evict you or pursue you for the deficiency. In a short sale, you negotiate an agreement with the bank that allows you to sell your house for what you can get on the market, and the bank accepts the proceeds as satisfaction of your mortgage, even if the amount is less than what you owe.

Banks are not thrilled about foreclosing and taking over properties they cannot sell, but neither are they excited about negotiating a deal that forgives the mortgage and lets the homeowner off the hook for the deficiency. Find an attorney with the skills, knowledge base and experience to be able to negotiate a favorable outcome for you. In Chicago, contact the Law Office of Lex A. Johnson & Associates.

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