Anyone who is being arrested has a series of rights that protect them from searches and damning statements. These rules have been created to protect your civil rights and improve the chances of walking away from an arrest as cleanly as possible. While thinking about the possibility of arrest is probably the last thing on your mind, it’s becoming more possible to get arrested or confronted for seemingly minor incidents, such as peaceful protests. Having a general knowledge of your rights can protect you if these situations ever arise.
Right to Remain Silent
The right to remain silent is one of the most important rights of someone under arrest. Stemming from the Fifth Amendment, this right protects the accused from self-incrimination. You are not obligated to argue your guilt or innocence to the officers — this is a decision they must develop themselves after collecting evidence. This right was confirmed in the Supreme Court case Miranda v. Arizona, in which it was ruled that being coerced into speaking is a rights violation. This is why the list of statements dictated to you after an arrest is called your Miranda Rights.
You have the right to refuse a search of your belongings or space when asked by an officer. However, police may pat down your clothing to determine if you are handling a weapon. If you are asked your consent for a search, remain calm and politely decline. Please note, refusing a search may not stop an officer from carrying out the search, especially if you are suspected of carrying illegal goods; however, your objection can help preserve your rights in court.
Right to an Attorney
The request for an attorney can be made immediately upon arrest to the officers and cannot be refused. This attorney must be present during any questioning and can give counsel before any trials. Worried about being able to afford a law professional? Communicate that to the officers and request a public defender. Many Americans are eligible for a public defender, usually assigned after a series of interview questions about your finances.
Right to Immigration Status Non-Disclosure
If you are traveling within the United States and outside of any international airports, you are not obligated to share your immigration or citizenship status. You also do not have to answer any questions about your birthplace or how you entered the country. If you are not a U.S. citizen and above the age of 18, you should always carry your immigration papers with you, in case you are confronted by a police officer or ICE.
Being arrested is never an easy experience, but knowing your rights can be imperative in assuaging the situation down the line. If you or someone you know has been arrested and believes that their rights were violated, contact a criminal attorney in Washington, DC right away.
Thanks to The Law Firm of Frederick J. Brynn, P.C. for their insight into criminal law and your constitutional rights.