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Know Your Rights If You Are Arrested

 
Read Time: 6 Minutes

When most people think of being arrested, they think of a police officer placing handcuffs on an alleged criminal and putting them in the back of a police car. But there’s more to it than just taking a suspect into custody. An arrest triggers a cascade of legal events that include specific police responsibilities and arrest rights for the suspect.

Innocent or not, it is important to know your rights if you are arrested.

Not all detentions by the police are considered an arrest. In some instances, the police may detain a person so that they can issue a citation for a minor traffic violation or a notice to appear for a criminal misdemeanor. Once a suspect signs a citation, it is considered an agreement to appear in court at a later date.

How Are People Arrested?

An arrest can only occur once the police have gathered enough evidence to establish probable cause – a reasonable belief that the suspect has committed the crime in question. In some cases, an arrest is made when a suspect is seen committing a crime. More often, the police must investigate the crime and may arrest a suspect once they have enough evidence of their possible guilt.

If an arrest is made at your home, an arrest warrant is required, and the arresting officers must “knock and announce” their presence. This rule does not apply in urgent situations, such as when someone is in danger or there is a possibility that evidence may be destroyed. The arrest warrant is issued by a judge, based on statements given under oath by witnesses and suspects and used to establish probable cause.

What Happens When an Arrest Is Made?

If you are arrested and questioned by the police, you must be informed of or read your legal rights, known as Miranda Rights. This is also known as being Mirandized. Police only need to read you these rights if you are in custody and they are interrogating you or, in other words, asking you questions that are likely to elicit an incriminating response.

If the police do not ask you these types of questions and you are not in custody, whatever you say can be used against you. In addition, when an individual is arrested, the police may search them to determine if they have weapons and to ensure they do not have any evidence on their person that they may try to destroy. This is even allowed if an officer is detaining your for a minor offense for which a citation is issued and no physical arrest is made.

What Are Miranda Rights in Florida?

If you’ve been arrested, are in police custody, and are being questioned about any alleged criminal activity, the police must read you your Miranda rights in Florida. They must inform you of specific Constitutional rights – Miranda rights – that let you know your protections under the law.

The Miranda Rights let you know that you don’t have to answer any questions, you can ask for an attorney to be present, and that the court will provide an attorney if you can’t afford one. You're immediately asked if you understand the rights read to you. In addition, you're informed that if you choose to waive your rights, then anything you say can be used against you.

When Is the Miranda Warning Required?

It doesn’t matter where you are arrested or interrogated, if you are in custody, the police must read you the Miranda Rights if they want to ask you any questions and use your answers as evidence at trial. If you are not in police custody, you don’t have to be Mirandized and anything you say can be used at trial.

For example, a police officer apprehends a suspect who assaulted someone on the street. Even though he has witnessed the assault, the suspect had rights and must be Mirandized. If you are not arrested, or if you have been arrested but not questioned, you don't need to be Mirandized.

If you refuse to answer any questions after being Mirandized, the police may decide to try again later and re-Mirandize you. Also, if you refuse to talk without an attorney present, which is your right under Miranda, any statements elicited by the police without your attorney present are usually inadmissible in a court.

Once Arrested, Stay Silent

Once arrested, the best course is to remain silent, except to ask for an attorney. And stay silent until your defense attorney is present. This is your right. Tell the arresting officer your name, if asked, and be honest, giving a false name is illegal. If you are booked into jail, you may answer questions about your height and weight, and whether or not you’ve been in jail before.

You can ask to make a phone call and to speak to a lawyer. This advice is the same whether or not you are innocent, and whether or not the crime is something serious or something minor. And although you may think it's better to explain your innocence right away, that can make things worse. If you are being arrested, the police officer has already decided you are guilty.

Resist the urge to talk to the officers at all. Of course, you have the right to stop talking at any time, but it is often psychologically difficult to stop once you’ve started. So, just don’t start. That also goes for talking to anyone while you are in jail. Keep in mind that everything you say while in jail can be monitored, with the exception of communications with your defense attorney. This includes your jail calls.

What Happens If the Police Don't Read You Your Rights?

If you are arrested and not read your rights, you are still in trouble. Many people think you can escape punishment, but this is not the case. If the police fail to read you your rights, the prosecutor may not be able to use most of what you say as evidence against you during the trial.

How To Obtain Freedom after Being Arrested?

The only way for you to obtain your complete and total freedom from the charges after being arrested is if the government drops the charges against you, and if that doesn’t happen, you must follow the legal procedure to get out of jail. This may include being released on bail, or on your own recognizance.

A defense attorney can help you every step of the way, including fighting to prove that you are not guilty, showing that you are innocent through strategic mitigation, and/or entering into some agreement that results in your release from custody or possibly a dismissal of the charges.

If you need a criminal defense attorney in South Florida with real courtroom experience, contact Weinstein Legal. If you or a loved one are accused of committing a crime, we can help.