The majority of people only know about arresting rights because of law enforcement television shows, the most famous being the right to remain silent. However, many people are unaware of what their rights are during the arrest and interrogation process, especially if they have never had trouble with the law before.
It’s important to understand that you are still protected in the legal system, even if you’ve been accused of a crime. Here is what you should know about your rights, and what it means for your case if those rights are ignored.
Reading Your Rights
The familiar dialogue reflected on Hollywood depictions of arrest is known as “reading your rights” or the Miranda warning. These include the right to remain silent, the warning that what you say can be used in court, and that you are entitled to have legal representation if you need or want it. You also can stop an interview and refuse to speak further.
Contrary to popular belief, arresting officers are not required to read these rights to you upon arrest. They do, however, have to present them before asking you any questions. If they fail to read these statements to you before interviewing you about your role in the crime, anything you say cannot be used as a testimony against you in court.
After you have been read the warning, it’s best to tell your interviewer you intend to remain silent, if that is what you feel is best for your case. If you say out loud, “I will not speak with you,” legally, the police must stop the interrogation. If you say nothing at all, an officer can continue to ask questions in order to prompt your response.
Remember that staying silent, even if you are innocent, is the best policy until you have legal representation. Even denying everything can be dangerous. If you inadvertently deny something that later turns out to be true, you can lose traction with the judge and jury. You could also accidentally bring more charges upon yourself, making your legal defense even more difficult.
It’s important to realize that the Miranda warning will not fully protect you in entirety. You might feel optimistic about having your case thrown out if the police fail to give the warning before asking you questions. It’s true your statements will not be admissible in court as evidence.
However, other evidence, like physical evidence found at the crime scene, can still be used against you, even if your arresting rights were ignored.
You are entitled to a civil interrogation. This means that all information you give must be voluntary. Police cannot coerce you into speaking by using physical force against you. Be sure to take pictures of any bruises or damage done to you if an officer does use force during an interrogation.
In some cases, psychological coercion also occurs, but this is more difficult to prove.
If you felt like you must confess because you were not permitted to sleep, were not given water, or were prevented from going to the bathroom until the interrogation was over, be sure you speak with your lawyer about the situation. These are illegal methods of obtaining information, and it should not affect your trial.
While you are protected from incriminating yourself through words and communications, the protection does not cover providing hair and fingerprint samples for DNA testing and crime scene investigation.
However, your state laws may protect you based on whether or not they require warrants for DNA samples. Before providing any samples, ask your lawyer if the police in your state can legally take those samples. The courts hold body samples as physical evidence, so you must give them if they are legally requested.
Many people believe that they cannot be arrested without a warrant. This is not always the case. Generally, you cannot be arrested in your own home without a warrant. But if a police officer has probable cause, like if they witnessed the crime or found you involved at the crime scene in a suspicious way, you can be arrested without a warrant.
You do, however, have the right to know why you have been arrested. The arresting officer or the arrest warrant must state the crime. Remember that to be arrested does not mean that you are guilty. Arresting temporarily puts you in the custody of the police until further justice can be pursued.
If police do arrest you without a warrant when they should have obtained one, you have an advantage. Any evidence found during a bad arrest is not likely to be admissible in court. The police have to release you. However, they can get a warrant and arrest you again after following the proper channels.
For more information on your rights during interrogation and arrest, contact us at Mesenbourg & Sarratori Law Offices. We have the experience necessary to help you get the legal representation you need.