Friday, June 29, 2007

What Are My Rights?

As I was enjoying a DVD movie last night with my family I received a call from the First Assistant District Attorney in Brazos County. He called me out of courtesy about the arrest of one of my current clients. He explained my client has just been arrested and had invoked his right to silence when the police attempted to interrogate him. I immediately got into my car and went to the county jail to give my client further instructions. Among other things, I commended him for invoking his right to remain silent.

We all understand the need for good law enforcement. However, we also must understand our own rights and responsibilities, especially when we interact with the police. If you are stopped by the police:
  • Stay calm and in control of your words, your emotions, and your body. Don't get into an argument with the police.
  • Do not complain at the scene or tell the police they are wrong.
  • Do not make any statements regarding the incident. Do not consent to any searches.
  • Ask for a lawyer immediately if you are arrested.
  • Try to find witnesses and their names and telephone numbers.
  • Never bad-mouth a police officer.
  • During an encounter with the police, you can protect yourself: What you say to the police can and will be used against you, and it can give the police an excuse to arrest you, especially if you are bad-mouthing the officer.
  • You do not have to consent to a search of yourself, your car, or your home. If you do consent to a search, it can adversely affect your rights later in court.
  • Do not interfere with or obstruct the police - you can be arrested for it.
  • It is not a crime to refuse to answer questions, although it is a crime to refuse to identify yourself and produce proof of your identity.
  • If police reasonably suspect you pose a danger to them or others, they may conduct a frisk and "pat down" your outer clothing. Do not physically resist, but make it clear you do not consent to any further searches.
  • If you are stopped in your car: Upon request, show the police your driver's license and proof of insurance. In certain cases your car can be searched without a warrant. However, to protect yourself you should state you do not consent to a search. It is not lawful for the police to arrest you simply for refusing to consent to a search.
  • If you are contacted at your home: If the police knock and ask to enter your home, you do not have to let them in, or even open the door, unless they have a warrant signed by a judge - not just the threat of getting a warrant.
  • You do not have to consent to any search of your home.
  • In some emergency situations, officers are allowed to enter and search your home without a warrant and without your consent.
  • If you are arrested or taken to a police station: You have the right to remain silent and talk to a lawyer before you talk to the police.
  • Do not give any explanations, excuses, or stories. You can assert your defense later with the help of your lawyer.
  • Ask to see your lawyer immediately. Do not say anything without a lawyer.
  • Do not talk about the facts of your case over the telephone at the police station or jail.
  • Do not make any decisions about your case until you have talked with your lawyer.

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