Interacting with law enforcement officials can be an intimidating experience if you don’t know what to expect. When you’re nervous, you’re more likely to do something to incriminate yourself or to violate your rights. Read on for a basic understanding of your rights when you do come across a police officer.
When questioned by a law enforcement official, whether a police officer, FBI agent, immigration official, or any other kind of legal authority, your Miranda Rights protect you from needing to answer any of their questions. In fact, it’s a good idea to consult a lawyer before answering anything. Even if you are arrested and taken to jail, you retain your right to remain silent, and you cannot be punished for not responding.
There are two exceptions to this rule: first, in some states it is mandatory to provide your name if asked by a law enforcement official. Second, if you are pulled over while driving and an officer asks for your driver’s license, registration, and insurance, you must provide the documents (although you don’t have to answer further questions).
If You’re Stopped
If you’re stopped by a law enforcement official, you have the right to walk away and not answer questions, unless the police officer specifies that you are being detained. Detainment occurs when the officer says that you cannot leave but also that you are not being arrested. During detainment, an officer has the right to search you if there is probable cause after a pat down. Officers do not automatically have the authority to search your vehicle, and he cannot legally search your car without probable cause.
If you are arrested, the officer must read you your Miranda Rights. These rights include the right to remain silent, the right to an attorney, and the right to have an attorney appointed if you cannot afford one. If the officers do not tell you these rights, they are in violation of the law (you should exercise them anyways). The only thing you should tell police when arrested is your name: anything else can be used against you in court. You should ask to speak to a lawyer immediately. Additionally, you have the right to a phone call within a reasonable amount of time following your arrest. Officers cannot listen to discussions you have with your lawyer, but they can listen to conversations you have with anyone else.
If Your Home or Office is Searched
A law enforcement officer cannot search your property without a warrant or without your consent. If you are not home when the police go to search your house, a roommate or spouse can consent for you if the police believe that they have reasonable authority to consent. As far as your office goes, your employer can consent to a search for you, even without your consent.
A search warrant is an issue signed by a judge that gives officers the right to not only enter your property, but also to seize any items that they think might be pertinent to the case. A search warrant does not automatically give the police the right to arrest you, but they can arrest you if they find incriminating evidence during the search. If they enter your premises without consent or a warrant, any evidence found cannot be admitted as evidence in a court of law.
Douglas Hicks writes on bail bonds, criminal justice, police training and other related issues. Texans who’d like to learn more about bail bonds in Alvin TX should visit a well known company in the area.
Image credit goes to rocketdogphoto.