When police place you under arrest, it can be difficult to think straight. You may be afraid, angry or shocked, and the situation may be chaotic and confusing. More than anything, you just want it all to end as quickly as possible so you can return to your normal life. However, this desire to get things over with may cause you to act in ways that can complicate the situation even more.
It is important to remain calm and remember your rights. Understanding the limits in which law enforcement must work will help you avoid self-incrimination and allow you to recognize when someone is violating your rights. The most immediate rights at risk during your arrest are those described in the Miranda warning.
Are you waiving your rights?
Miranda is the nickname for the U.S. Supreme Court decision Miranda v. Arizona, which requires police to remind you of your constitutional rights under the Fifth Amendment. You have probably heard these rights on police shows or maybe even in real situations. At some point after your arrest and before they begin questioning you, police must inform you of these rights:
- To remain silent and refuse to answer questions
- To understand that whatever you say during questioning may become evidence against you
- To have legal counsel at any time after your arrest
It is not enough for you to simply hear those rights. You must clearly invoke them. You can do this by telling police that you choose to exercise your right to remain silent, and then you must remain silent. In fact, if you speak after invoking your right to remain silent, you may imply to police that you are waiving that right. You may also expressly waive your rights by signing a statement, but it is not wise to do so until you speak with an attorney.
Your right to an attorney is critical. Once you inform North Carolina police that you want to speak with your lawyer, they must stop questioning you and allow you to contact one. It is critical that you stay quiet, not even engaging in small talk with investigators, who may try to put you at ease so you will drop your guard. Your attorney will advise you on the best way to respond to investigators’ questions and will evaluate your arrest to determine if police violated your rights in any way.