Arrest: Am I Free to Go?
When a “Stop” becomes an “Arrest” is a technical legal question. Subjectively, you know that when an officer stops you, you are not free to go, but that’s the question you need to be willing to ask: “Am I free to go, or are you placing me under arrest?” No matter what the answer is, you must still make use of your right to remain silent to protect yourself.
Anyone who has watched a cop show knows about Miranda rights. We can all recite them from memory: “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney one will be appointed for you at no charge.” Then the officer says to you, “DO YOU UNDERSTAND THESE RIGHTS?” Chances are you don’t. So listen up…
Stay silent. You have the right, the officer just told you so. So use it! You may have to spend a few hours in jail if you won’t talk to the police officer, but if you start talking, you are far more likely to go to jail for an extended stay. It’s not in your best interest to try and explain to the police officer what you were or weren’t doing. Explaining things just doesn’t work.
Can and Will be Used Against You. The officer means it. If you give a true story, you may be admitting the elements of a crime even if you don’t know it. If you give a false story, you may be providing the officer with statements that can be used later to show that you are untruthful. Just keep your mouth shut, unless you are asking for an attorney.
Your Right to Counsel. If you can’t afford to hire an attorney, the court will appoint a public defender to represent you. Most public defenders are good lawyers who really care about their clients. At the same time, it’s hard for an overworked defender to give full attention to your case when he or she has 100 other clients at the same time. So if you think you might be in trouble, consider hiring an experienced private attorney. Few things in life are so potentially damaging as a criminal conviction.
Do You Understand? The police officer wants to hear you say you understand, and now that you’ve read this article, you probably do understand. So show the officer how well you understand, by telling him “I do not wish to be questioned without my attorney present.” Then call an experienced attorney to help you with your case.