Your Rights During an Arrest

Being arrested for a crime can be unsettling. It's important to know, though, that your rights during an arrest protect you throughout the arrest process. Here's a detailed look at what rights you have during an arrest.

Your Miranda Rights During an Arrest

A 1966 Supreme Court ruling in the case Miranda v. Arizona led to what's commonly known as the "Miranda rights." In practice, the law requires police officers to explain certain Constitutional rights to people before they begin custodial interrogation. Here's what that means:

  • Explaining the rights: This is the part of the Miranda warnings commonly shown on TV: a police officer recites a speech that usually begins with, "You have the right to remain silent." Any time an officer of the law intends to interrogate a person, these rights must be read or recited. Any evidence gathered from interrogation that wasn't preceded by advisement of Miranda rights might be discounted in court, but not always.
  • Interrogation: This has been defined as any discussion or action between law enforcement and a suspect that has the goal of eliciting information, statements or a confession. It's important to note that not all interrogation takes the form of questioning and not all questioning is considered interrogation.
  • Custody: In order to be considered "custodial," an interrogation must meet certain qualifications. Generally speaking, a police officer establishes custody by stating or implying that the suspect being questioned is not free to leave.

To summarize: the law requires arresting officers to inform you of certain Constitutional rights before beginning a custodial interrogation. If you have questions or would like an analysis of your specific arrest, you can contact a criminal defense lawyer practicing in your state.

Your Search and Seizure Rights During an Arrest

The Fourth Amendment guards against illegal search and seizure, but the circumstances that determine a search's legality can vary. Here's a look at some basic rules of thumb.

  • Illegal searches: Police officers are, in most cases, not allowed to search spaces that fall under the "reasonable expectation of privacy" umbrella without explicit permission. In other words, property that can reasonably be expected to kept private (such as a home) is legally protected from unwarranted searches for which you give no consent.
  • Consent to search: If the police have no warrant to search a place with a reasonable expectation to privacy, you are allowed to deny them access in most cases. Consenting to a search of your home, though, makes that search legal. A roommate or family member who lives with you may also provide consent to search.
  • Search warrants: Police can also conduct legal searches by getting warrants from a judge. Warrants require legal reasons that the search is necessary, specific evidence the police expect to find, and specific boundaries of the area to be searched.

If you think you were subjected to an illegal search that led to your arrest, it's important to communicate that with your lawyer. Together, you and your attorney can help determine whether any laws were broken and, if so, what impact that might have on your case.

Your Rights with Arrest Warrants

A person can be arrested for a number of reasons:

  • A law enforcer witnesses the person committing a crime;
  • A law enforcer has probable cause to suspect that the person is about to commit a crime or has committed a crime; or
  • A warrant exists for the person's arrest.

An arrest warrant is a legal authorization for arrest issued by a judge. The warrant itself usually provides a description of the crime involved, the name of the person suspected, a known address where that person might be found and permission for the officer to arrest that person.

Whatever the reason for your arrest, you are protected by the same rights.

Ask a Lawyer about Your Rights During an Arrest

If you're interested in learning more about your rights during an arrest, you can speak with a criminal defense lawyer practicing in your state. Your lawyer can help you make sense of your arrest and plot a course for moving forward with your criminal case.

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