Posted on December 20, 2019 in Criminal Defense
“To protect and serve” is the motto of many police departments. However, it is not uncommon for citizens to be apprehensive about interacting with law enforcement. But, keep in mind that just because an officer is speaking to you, this does not mean you are in trouble.
It’s always a good idea to be respectful and polite when dealing with the police. At the same time, know that anything you say to an officer can be used against you in court. For that reason, it’s important to understand that you can stay silent and wait until you have your attorney present before answering any questions.
Now, if law enforcement comes to your door, don’t assume that you are being accused of a crime. Instead, it can be beneficial to ask what you can do to help the officer(s).
It’s quite possible that they are investigating another matter or looking for a suspect in your neighborhood. Once you ascertain the reason for the visit, you can then determine how best to proceed.
Note that you may be pulled over while driving. You may also be stopped by an officer while you are walking down the street. If this happens, you can ask why you are being stopped.
During a traffic stop, an officer will likely ask you if you knew why you were being pulled over. Keep in mind that you are not required to admit anything, and you should keep your answers short. This is particularly true if you plan on contesting a ticket. However, it’s important to always be respectful when speaking to the officer.
If you are concerned about whether or not you are free to leave, you may simply ask the officer. Most traffic stops involve a brief holding for questioning and do not rise to the level of you being detained. This is also true of most stops involving pedestrians on the street.
However, an officer only needs what is known as “reasonable suspicion” to detain you. While this is something more than a hunch, it requires less evidence than would be needed to arrest you. While you are being detained, the officer may question you and frisk the outside of your clothing.
If you are not being detained, this means that there is no suspicion that you were involved in a crime. You are not required to stay or answer any questions.
Note that even if you are being held by police, you are not required to answer any questions. If you decide to answer, be careful in how you respond. Officers may be looking for answers that provide enough evidence to arrest you.
Now, as you might imagine, being arrested is more serious than being detained. In order for an arrest to be legal, the officer must have either a warrant or what is known as “probable cause” that you committed a crime. An arrest means that you are being restrained, typically with the use of handcuffs.
Once an arrest has taken place, the police may not interrogate you without first reading you Miranda rights. This includes making you aware that:
Be sure to tell your attorney if you weren’t read these rights by the police.
As mentioned, the police will need to have either probable cause or an arrest warrant to place you under arrest. This means that you can ask the officers if they have a warrant.
If the officers have a warrant, you have the right to know what the warrant is based on and what crime you are being charged with. If there is no warrant or probable cause, you may ask again whether or not you are free to leave.
In most cases, the police need a valid warrant to search your home. While there are some exceptions to this rule, you can generally refuse a search if the officers do not have a search warrant. But, keep in mind that police may not let you know that you have the option to withhold consent.
It’s important to remember that you have the right to have a criminal defense attorney present when answering any questions from law enforcement. This is critical if you are arrested as you may be more likely to face criminal penalties.
Keep in mind that you have the right to an attorney if you are facing criminal charges and cannot afford a lawyer. Here, you would have a public defender appointed to your case. For that reason, it’s always best to make sure you are represented when taken into custody and questioned by police.