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Can police enter your apartment if you aren't there?

Perhaps you spent your freshman year at the University of Wisconsin living in one of the school's residence halls. This year, you and one or more of your friends decided to get your own apartment off campus. You all signed a lease and moved in as you started another year of classes.

Even with roommates, you have more privacy and don't have to share a bathroom with several people, but you can still quickly get to UW for your classes. Then, for whatever reason, you come home to find that police searched your apartment as part of an investigation. You weren't home to give your permission for the search, so now you need to know who let them in and whether the search was legal.

Seemingly innocent questions from police may lead to OWI charge

Most Wisconsin residents want to trust law enforcement officers. They can help in times of emergency, and they work to uphold the law. However, upholding the law may mean questioning you if they believe you have committed a crime. In such a situation, you may want to maintain a healthy skepticism of what their actions mean.

In particular, if a police officer stops your vehicle and suspects you of OWI, it is likely that he or she will ask you several questions. While some of the questions may seem friendly or as if the officer is simply trying to make conversation while gathering your identification and vehicle information, remember that your answers to these questions could still be used against you.

Is your DNA a matter of public record?

For many in Wisconsin, the letters DNA are synonymous with truth. If police have DNA evidence that links a suspect with a crime, it is proof enough that the suspect is guilty. What they may not realize is that DNA evidence is constantly under scrutiny and is not really the nail in the coffin that most TV crime shows pretend it is.

Nevertheless, presenting DNA evidence can be quite compelling for a jury, and prosecutors may go to great lengths to link a suspect to a crime through DNA. This has lately raised questions about privacy, especially since genetic matching services using DNA samples are becoming more popular among the mainstream.

What happens if I violate my probation?

After your conviction, if a judge sentenced you to probation as part of your sentence, you may have felt relief. Probation means spending less time behind bars, or perhaps no time at all. You get to go home to a place that is familiar. There is no separation between you and your friends and loved ones. You have your freedom.

However, you are not off the hook. Probation is still a penalty for your conviction, and you likely have work to do. Perhaps you have community service to complete, counseling sessions to attend and drug testing to pass. You may also have to find meaningful work and make restitution. Above all, it is your responsibility to make sure you do not violate the terms of your probation.

Do I have to submit to roadside sobriety tests?

If you had wine with your dinner or drinks with some friends, the sight of flashing lights behind you on the drive home may cause a feeling of panic. You try to play it cool, respond to the officer's questions with respect and even humor, and cooperate when the officer requests to see your license and car registration.

Then the officer asks you to step out of the car. Perhaps he or she smelled alcohol on your breath. Maybe your eyes are a little glassy or you slipped and mentioned you had a drink earlier in the evening. At any rate, you are now under suspicion of drunk driving, and the next few moments can mean the difference between heading home and riding in the back of a police car.

Those suffering from substance abuse may also face drug charges

You may have a drug abuse problem or know someone who does. These issues are serious, and you undoubtedly hope that one day you or your loved one can overcome the hold that the addiction has. Of course, even when individuals have a willingness and desire to get clean, the struggle can often prove too difficult without the right help.

Along the way, you or your loved one could wind up in a serious legal situation. Often, people with substance abuse problems have a tendency to act out of character due to the changes the drugs bring about in their minds, and they may feel willing to do almost anything to get another fix. In such cases, it is not unusual for addicts to wind up facing various drug-related charges.

I got arrested for a bar fight I didn't start! What happens now?

Any time you put a lot of people in a relatively small space and add alcohol, the potential for chaos exists. You never know how the person drinking next to you handles drinking too much. One innocent move or word could cause the other person to react violently.

If this happened to you, and a fight broke out, you could find yourself under arrest once police arrive. In these situations, many officers decide to arrest everyone and sort it out later. If you end up facing charges for assault and battery, don't panic. You may have options for your defense.

What makes certain evidence admissible in a criminal case?

If your arrest turns into criminal charges, you are likely working toward a defense. As part of that process, you and your criminal defense team will probably review all of the alleged evidence that prosecutors intend to use against you in court.

One of the first things you should know is that the court may not allow prosecutors to use all of that evidence in court. Part of your defense strategy may include determining what evidence is admissible and what evidence is not.

Do you have to let police take a 'quick look around'?

Police officers can be intimidating regardless of whether you committed a crime or not. If police knock on your door and ask to come inside, you might feel as if you have no choice but to let them in.

Although Wisconsin police officers have a degree of authority over residents, you still have legal rights. Learning a few basics about the law can prepare you for the best way to respond to this situation.

The right to privacy

A common misconception is that you must allow the officer to search because you have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide. Refusing an optional search does not mean you are automatically guilty.

Instead, it means that you want to exercise your right to privacy. Historically, lawmakers and legal professionals have debated the extent of this right. However, the Fourth Amendment protects citizens from government searches without strong justification, such as probable cause and emergency.

Were you charged with assault while trying to defend yourself?

Growing up, you may have heard that you should always stick up for yourself and that standing up to bullies will get them to leave you alone. While these tactics may have proven useful to you as a child, getting into a physical altercation as an adult could have more serious consequences. Even if you feel that you had to take such action, you could still potentially face criminal charges for assault.

As many people in your situation choose to argue, you may feel that your actions were necessary due to acting out of self-defense. However, simply saying that you attempted to defend yourself may not cause the allegations of assault to disappear. Therefore, you may wish to better understand how the elements of self-defense could play into your criminal defense.

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Madison, WI 53703

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