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Do I Have to Talk to the Police?


In the United States, a person who is going to...

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The simple answer is no!

There are different factors in every case, so whether you have to talk to the police if you are detained for any reason, depends on the facts of the situation, the circumstances, the location, etc.  We have a outlined a few guidelines that are smart to follow if you are ever pulled over or detained by the police for questioning.

There are many important points to remember during any interactions with law enforcement, whether you have committed a crime or not. Most importantly you should always remain polite and courteous.

What You Should Never Do When Dealing with Law Enforcement:

  • Do not interfere with or obstruct the police during any investigation as this could lead to criminal charges being filed against you. 
  • Never lie or give false documents to the police as this is also a crime.
  • Do not run from the police. 
  • Do not argue or resist arrest, even if you are innocent or you believe the police are violating your rights. 

Your Legal Responsibilities to the Police When Being Questioned:

  • Sometimes an officer may stop and question you on the street for no apparent reason; this is perfectly legal. 
  • You are not required to answer their questions so long as it remains a voluntary exchange. 
  • You are permitted to end the interview and walk away at any time as the conversation is consensual. 
  • If you are unsure about the encounter, you are permitted to ask the officer if you are free to leave.  If you are free to leave, calmly and politely walk away.  
  • If an officer however pulls you over while driving or makes it clear that you are not permitted to leave, you should not leave but remain where you are and act politely and courteously.  If you do leave, you could be charged with evading arrest.  

What are My Legal Rights?

If you are stopped and the police ask to search your car/vehicle, you are permitted to say no and you should.  However, the police may ultimately search the car either by obtaining a warrant or if they believe your car contains evidence of a crime.

You have the right to remain silent.  Use it.  Police may tell you that they want to hear your side of the story or that by not talking to them you are making yourself look guilty.  You should not listen to this. You should invoke your right to remain silent and ask for an attorney.  Remaining silent will not make you look guilty, nor does asking to have an attorney present.

Having an attorney with you at an interview with the police will help your case, as the attorney will be able to instruct you as to what questions you should answer and as how to answer the questions while still telling the truth.  When you express your desire to remain silent and to have an attorney present, it is important to remain civil and polite to the police.  Whether you are guilty or innocent, in most cases you should remain silent.

If you are arrested and taken to jail, make sure not to discuss your case over the phone as your phone call may be recorded; only your phone conversations and meetings in jail with your attorney are not allowed to be listened to by the police.  However, if you have been detained or arrested and an officer asks you for your name, address, or birth date, you should provide him with this information as your refusal to do so would be a crime for Failure to I.D.

What About My Miranda Rights?

A lot of times people are concerned about being read their Miranda rights/warnings.  Miranda warnings are required to be read when a person is in custody and is subject to interrogation.  This means that Miranda warnings are only required to be read to a person when they have been arrested and officers are either expressly questioning them or saying things to the person to elicit an incriminating response from the person.  However, just because you may not have been read your Miranda rights does not mean your case will automatically be thrown out.  Miranda warnings deal with the admissibility of confessions.  If you confessed to a crime while in custody and you weren’t read your Miranda rights, then the confession may be considered inadmissible in court.  In order to invoke your Miranda right to an attorney you have to be clear and unambiguous that you do not wish to talk to the officers any further until you have spoken with an attorney.  Once a person invokes their right to an attorney, the police must listen to their request and cease interrogation immediately.  However, an officer may ask you standard booking questions such as your name and address without it being considered a violation of your Miranda rights.  Unfortunately, anything a person who is not in custody or under arrest voluntarily says to the police may still be used during court proceedings despite the fact Miranda warnings were not issued.

What If I’m a Juvenile and I get Stopped by the Police?

Questions also arise in the case of juveniles and whether a parent or guardian’s presence is required.  A common misconception is that a parent/guardian has to be present whenever officers wish to speak to juveniles.  However, police may speak to a juvenile at school without the presence of a parent/guardian.  A parent or guardian’s presence is only necessary if the child is being talked to at a juvenile center.

If you or someone you know has been contacted by the police about a potential charge or if you have any questions about what you should say to the police, contact our office immediately so that we may help you fight your case or even prevent you from being charged.

 

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You Have the Right to Remain Silent


Right to SilenceIt cannot be emphasized enough that in the United States, a person gives up Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights the moment they begin cooperating with police in any way prior to arrest. These rights technically cannot be reclaimed after an arrest has been made and Miranda rights have been read. this is true because police do not have to advise a person of his/her rights until after he/she incriminates themselves and/or are arrested. In other words, if the person cooperates prior to being arrested, then they have surrendered most of the rights of which the police are advising that arrestee when they are reading them their Miranda rights.

Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia about protecting your right’s that helps to illustrate this point:

 “In the U.S., the only way for one to protect one’s rights fully is to refuse answering any questions beyond giving one’s name and identifying papers if requested and to refuse giving consent to anything (such as a search) prior to one’s arrest. Law enforcement officials in the United States rely heavily upon the subtle intimidation of their position and power and the ignorance of citizens to their rights in order to make people incriminate themselves. Police do not have to tell civilians the truth on any subject. They can make any promises and claims they like in order to induce a person to incriminate herself or himself or to allow the police to perform a search, and police are not bound by anything they promise to suspects or witnesses (i.e. promises of aid or protection).United States citizens must know their rights in order to avoid losing them by inadvertently giving them away.” – Taken from: Wikipedia “Right to Silence”

In other words the rights guaranteed by the Fourth and Fifth Amendment are not automatically invoked by the accused. In fact the opposite is true. If a person does not actively invoke their rights then their rights are automatically surrendered. This is why it is imperative that anyone who is arrested or accused of a crime should exercise their right to remain silent! Thankfully, not answering any questions asked by the police is not considered incriminating in and of itself in the U.S. legal system. Therefore, a person who finds themselves arrested and/or accused of a crime in the U.S. should answer any police questions with a polite request for an attorney. When interrogated simply and politely say “I would like to speak with a lawyer” and contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as it is possible.

This advice may sound counter-intuitive. Especially since we are taught all of our lives that the police exist to protect and serve us. Against these long established beliefs of police benevolence it is important to remember what are trained to do with people they arrest or accuse of a crime. Police officers are trained to investigate and gather evidence to build a case against the people they arrest or accuse of a crime. If you are arrested the police are not trained to be your priest, pastor, personal coach, or counselor. In short, if you are under arrest the police are not your friend.

Further compounding this issue is the fact that police officers are not infallible. They are flesh and blood human beings who make mistakes just like the rest of us. As such it is all too common for the police to bend the rules and take certain statements out of context in order to gain the upper hand and get a conviction. The police know that most people willingly provide them with the evidence needed for a conviction through confessions and statements taken during the interrogation process. It is for this reasons that while it is always a good idea to have a respectful attitude when dealing with the police, it is equally important to answer any questions they have in a controlled setting with access to competent legal advice.

After all, the State of Texas and United States Attorney’s Office take advantage of their huge budget by being able to have access to a large staff of lawyers, police officers, and crime lab experts to help prosecute their cases. This means that it is highly unlikely that a person who is accused of a crime will be able to challenge the government’s case without competent legal representation. Without an attorney the jury will more often than not accept whatever evidence the prosecutor produces.

 
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Posted by on June 7, 2011 in Legal Rights

 

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