The FBI estimates there are over 14 million arrests made each year in the United States. The U.S. Constitution affords arrestees several important rights, including the right against self-incrimination. Most people are familiar with the “Miranda Warning” from television and movies, but there are some common misconceptions.
People frequently say, “I was never read my rights when I was arrested.” This is often because you already incriminated yourself before you were ever arrested. Police officers only have to read your Miranda Rights if you’re in custody and they intend to interrogate you. If you’re not in custody—meaning you are free to leave—the officer can ask you anything they want without ever reading you your Miranda Rights. As an example, a detective might contact you by phone to ask you some questions, and even though it may seem very casual, the call is probably being recorded, and your statements can be used against you.
You have the right to remain silent. You may have to provide basic information such as your name, age, and address, but you have no obligation to answer any other questions or provide any other information. It is rarely a good idea to agree to answer the police officer’s questions, even if you believe you are totally innocent and have nothing to hide.
You have the right to attorney. It is never in your best interest to allow yourself to be interviewed by a police officer without an attorney. If you request an attorney, the officer may give you an opportunity to contact an attorney of your choosing, or they may simply stop the interview. Be firm in your resolve to not be interviewed without an attorney, or the police officer may attempt to change your mind.
You are presumed innocent, and the fact that you’ve been arrested is not in any way evidence of your guilt. If you find yourself arrested, remember to stay calm and cooperate—giving a fake name, physically resisting, or trying to run away will only compound your problems.
Hopefully, you will never have to use this advice, but if you are arrested, contact an attorney as soon as possible.