Getting arrested can be a frightening experience, especially with everything that can follow — being taken by police car to a detention center, getting booked, and likely being put in jail. Because getting arrested is a trying time, if you’re arrested you may be tempted to say or do anything to get out of the situation. But if you’re ever arrested, it is important under these difficult circumstances to think clearly and try to protect your rights. Here are some important things to know if you are arrested as well as key steps to protect your rights.
What Is An Arrest?
Just because you are stopped by the police for something does not mean you are under arrest. An arrest generally refers to the point at which you are taken into custody, meaning you are unable to freely leave the scene. Police usually don’t need a warrant to arrest you — they can arrest you as long as they have probable cause to believe you have committed or are about to commit a crime (an arrest made at your home generally does require a warrant unless there’s a belief you will run away, destroy evidence or harm someone).
If you are arrested, don’t try to run away or resist, as this will only make the situation worse and lead to additional charges. Though it may be difficult, try to remain calm and not get into an argument with the officer. Be careful about your body movements, and don’t threaten to file a complaint against the arresting officer. If you feel the officer has violated your rights, you can file a formal complaint later.
Your Right To Remain Silent
As most people know from watching television crime shows, if you’re arrested you have to be read your Miranda rights by the police before they can question you. These state that:
- you have the right to remain silent;
- anything you say can be used against you;
- you have the right to an attorney; and
- if you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.
Miranda rights are guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. They must be given to you whether you are a U.S. citizen or a non-citizen. If you are arrested and not read your Miranda rights before police start questioning you, statements you make cannot be used against you. However, this does not mean your case will be dismissed, as there can be other evidence sufficient to find you guilty.
Ask To Speak To A Lawyer Immediately
Once you are under arrest, take advantage of your right to remain silent and don’t answer any questions (you can give your name and personal information). Ask to speak to a lawyer immediately, and don’t say anything until you have talked to a lawyer . An arrest is an emotional time and can cause you to not think clearly, and it’s easy to accidentally say something that hurts your case. You may think you can persuade the police officer to let you go, but this is highly unlikely. What is a lot more common is that the person being arrested says something that makes things worse. Any statement you make will go into the police report and be used against you later. Because of this, it’s much better to consult a lawyer before you say anything. Your lawyer can advise you what to say — or not say — to law enforcement officers so that it will not hurt your case.
Invoking your right to remain silent is easy. Just simply tell the officer “I don’t want to say anything until I talk to my lawyer,” or “I am invoking my right to remain silent” or “I have nothing to say.”
If you’re arrested, law enforcement officers can question you without a lawyer present only if you waive your right to remain silent. If you answer some questions and then decide you don’t want to answer any more until talking to your lawyer, the questioning must stop.
In some arrests, like an arrest for drunk driving, the police officer will ask for physical evidence, such as a blood, breath or urine test. All states have implied consent laws, which are based on the principle that as a condition to obtaining a driver’s license, people implicitly agree to take a test to determine the alcohol content of their blood if they are suspected of drunk driving. But laws vary between states regarding the penalties for refusing to take a blood alcohol content test. Almost every state imposes administrative penalties, like fines and losing your driver’s license for a certain time, for refusing to take the test. Some states also impose criminal penalties for refusing to take a test.
When you are arrested, the police will likely search you. Depending on where the arrest occurs, they may also try to search your car or home.
With regard to body searches, if you are arrested a police officer is legally entitled to search you — without a warrant — for weapons or evidence.
If you’re arrested while driving, you are not legally required to consent to a search of your vehicle, and to protect yourself, you should not consent to a search. Generally, the police are entitled to search your car without a warrant and without your consent only if there is probable cause to believe it contains illegal items or evidence.
If you are arrested at home, an officer without a warrant can generally search only the area near your (depending on the circumstances, this may mean just the room you are in). However, if the officer believes evidence will be destroyed and it’s an emergency situation, your home may be searched without a warrant and without your consent.
If you are the victim of an illegal search, a court may not allow as evidence anything obtained during the search.
After The Arrest
After the arrest, you will be taken to a detention center for booking. It is important to continue to maintain your silence, as the statements you make not only at the time of the arrest but also elsewhere can be used against you. Booking is the process of fingerprinting, photographing you and processing you into the system. At the detention center, you will be granted the right to make at least one phone call. That call should be to a loved one, friend or a lawyer, who can start the process of protecting your rights.
Being arrested is a frightening and confusing time. But knowing and invoking your rights if you are arrested — especially your right to remain silent and your right to a lawyer — can help prevent the situation from getting worse.
Contact an attorney at Eddy DeLuca Gravina & Townsend today. Please call us for all your legal needs. We offer a full range of legal services to individuals, families and businesses, including personal injury, estate planning, real estate, family law and business matters. We are dedicated to providing the highest quality legal services at a reasonable cost.
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