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When Do Police Need an Arrest Warrant?

It's easy to imagine after watching a few seasons of police procedurals on TV that you basically get criminal procedure, especially arrests. But you probably don't because even lawyers who practice in court every day have to check legal texts when preparing to challenge an arrest.

But understanding arrest is important for all because it can happen to anyone, even those of us who try hard to avoid trouble. So let's consider arrests generally and arrest warrants in particular. When do police need a warrant and what must it specify?

Sometimes talking to a police officer is a friendly chat. Other times you're a suspect in a criminal investigation and it's anything but. Knowing the difference, and what to say and what not to say to cops can mean the difference between going home and going to jail.

So here's some of our best advice for talking to the police, from our archives:

What Is Prosecutorial Misconduct?

Few people have the privilege of seeking truth for a living, but prosecutors do. They are, in theory and often in practice, the guardians of justice. If there is evidence that a person committed a crime, a prosecutor can pursue a case. If not, it is their job to drop it.

Once a case is filed, prosecutors must share relevant evidence with the defense. That's the law, not just a nice thing to do. But sometimes prosecutors want to win convictions rather than pursue justice, and a case at the US Supreme Court this month, Brown v. Louisiana, illustrates this callous approach to truth. Let's take a look at prosecutorial misconduct.

After mass shootings like last weekend's Fuse nightclub massacre in Orlando or last year's church slayings in Charleston, people are left wondering whether the shooting can be classified as a hate crime, an act of terrorism, or both. Mass shootings that target a certain group of people based on their status or affiliation can be a hate crime. And mass shootings intended to intimidate or make a political statement can be acts of terrorism.

There are obviously instances, like Orlando and Charleston, where these definitions can seem to overlap, but how are the two crimes distinguished? What differentiates hate crimes from terrorism?

Not every criminal case goes to trial. In fact, the vast majority are settled by prosecutors offering defendants a lighter sentence in exchange for pleading guilty and avoiding a trial altogether. The plea bargaining process has its pros and cons, with prosecutors at best seeking an appropriate resolution and punishment and at worst intimidating defendants with harsh penalties to bully them into taking a deal.

Each criminal case is unique, but there are some general considerations to taking a plea deal that are common in most situations. Here's what you need to know about plea bargains and plea bargaining, from our archives:

Ex-Stanford Swimmer Gets Light Sex Assault Sentence

A Stanford University swimmer who was planning to compete in the Olympics will be spending the next few months in county jail, the next few years on probation, and the rest of his life on the sex offender registry. But as bad as that sounds, the defendant, Brock Turner, received a light sentence given the severity of his crimes.

Turner, 20, was convicted in March of three felony counts for his January, 2015 assault on a passed-out drunk woman on the Stanford campus outside of a frat party. This week he was sentenced for the charges, which were assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated person and two counts of sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object, reports the San Jose Mercury News.

Prior Bad Acts: Who Can Testify in Bill Cosby's Criminal Trial?

Bill Cosby is the elder statesman of American comedy whose life has turned into a bad drama, now including a criminal case. Next month, Cosby will return to criminal court in Pennsylvania for pretrial proceedings on three charges of felony indecent assault of Barbara Constand and faces ten years in prison if convicted.

Despite the dozens of accusations of abuse that have surfaced from women all over the country, this is Cosby's first criminal prosecution. The case was filed just two days before the 12-year statute of limitations on such claims in Pennsylvania expired, according to USA Today. It raises many interesting legal questions, all complex. Today, let's consider prior bad acts and whether Cosby's other accusers can testify against him.

It's welcome news to many criminal defendants that they can have their record expunged. While expungement might not be perfect -- most law enforcement agencies will still be able to see your arrest history and any convictions -- it means potential employers will have a harder time seeing your mistakes.

But which mistakes are eligible for expungement, and which will remain on your permanent record?

How to Choose a Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you're accused of a crime, you need a good criminal defense lawyer. But good doesn't come in one style, and what you need will depend on you and the specifics of your case. There are all kinds of counselors with different effective approaches to defense.

People pick attorneys based on reputation, experience, word-of-mouth, price, advertising, the feeling they get when meeting counsel, and more. Here are some general principles to consider so you know what to look for when exchanging with defense counsel and deciding about representation.

Now that the FBI has been caught bugging two California courthouses, many people are wondering about the limits of police surveillance. Recording conversations falls under the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits "unreasonable searches and seizures."

So what's considered unreasonable? It's been a long time since the Constitution was written, and society and technology have changed quite a bit since then. Here are some of the limits of police search and seizure today: