Know Your Rights If You Get Arrested
Regardless of whether you are guilty or innocent being arrested can be scary and uncomfortable. Depending on the circumstances, it may be clear why you were arrested or not. However, you do have rights and should know what they are so you can exercise them anytime that law enforcement officers detain you.
What Rights Do You Have as a Teenager
Even teenagers have rights when arrested. The first thing to do is stay calm and ask the officer if you are free to go. If the officer says yes, then leave quickly. If you are arrested, the police officer must read you your Miranda rights and explain why you are being detained. You have the right to remain silent and you should until you speak with your lawyer or parent. You also have the right to an attorney. Be sure to consult one before making any decisions or answering any questions.
Unlike with adults, police officers need only a “reasonable suspicion” when ar-resting a teen. They can also perform a quick frisk to make sure you are not carry-ing any weapons on you. Officers also have choices when arresting an underaged person. They don’t necessarily have to take them directly to the station for book-ing. They can counsel them and release them; they can take them home and hand over responsibility to the parents, or take them to the police station and have parents or guardian come to get them.
Minors do get one phone call, but they do not have the rights to bail. You will also get your chance before a judge at arraignment.
What Rights Do You Have as an Adult
When a police officer arrests you, they must first have “probable cause” that you have committed or were involved in a crime. You have the same rights to remain silent and ask for an attorney. If you cannot afford one, the state must grant you one for free. You must be read your Miranda rights when arrested.
They can hold you for 48 hours but no longer and then they must charge you with an offense. Within that 48 hours, you have the right to be arranged in front of a judge or magistrate.
If you are arrested, police have the right to frisk you to search for weapons, drugs or evidence of the crime. If you are held without being booked, your lawyer may be able to obtain a writ of habeas corpus forcing officers to bring you before the court and move things forward.
You also have the right to speedy trial. During your arraignment, you have the right to plead "nolo contendere" or "no contest," meaning you do not agree with the charges. You may also have the right to bail if the judge does not feel that you are a danger or flight risk.
What to Do
First and foremost stay calm. Do not mouth off to the officer or cop an attitude. Be polite and respectful. Ask questions like “am I free to go officer?” If the officer says yes, wish him or her goodbye and leave quickly. If they say no, then just stay quiet.
Invoke your 5th Amendment rights by remaining silent and asking to speak with an attorney. According to the Miranda rights, you are entitled to an attorney, and if you cannot afford one, one will be provided to you free of charge.
Say no respectfully to any search of you, your car or your home. Police cannot search you without a search warrant except in extraordinary circumstances. The proper way to respond when they ask if they can search is to say “officer, I do not consent to any searches of my private property."
Keep your private items out of view. If a police officer sees anything that presents “probable cause” they can perform a search legally without a warrant. If you have anything that is considered illegal contraband, keep it out of view to reduce the likelihood of an on-the-spot search.
What Not to Do
- Do not resist arrest; it will only make things worse.
- Do not consent to a search; instead respond with “I do not consent to a search.”
- Do not get physical or get into a shouting match with the officer. Law en-forcement may view you as hostile, and it may provoke more aggressive action on their part to restrain you.
- Do not try to talk your way out of an arrest or bargain with police. You could get into even more trouble.
How you handle being arrested could affect the entire outcome of your justice system process as well as your arrest records. You can make it much easier on yourself if you are compliant, polite, friendly, and follow the rules. You may, however, make good use of your 5th Amendment rights until resolved.