Know Your Rights

You Have the Right to Remain Silent

When confronted by the police or other government investigators, including prosecutors, you have the absolute Constitutional right to remain silent. Aside from properly identifying yourself, if asked, you have no obligation to talk to them, unless you so choose. They are not kidding about the part that goes, "anything you say can and will be used against you." They mean it! So what should you do and not do?

If you are confronted by the police and asked to identify yourself, you should usually do so. Be polite. In motor vehicle situations, provide your driver's license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance, if asked.

If you are asked more questions, you should seriously consider politely but firmly telling the investigator that you do not want to talk to him or her without a lawyer present to advise you. Again, in motor vehicle situations, if the cop asks you where you were and where you are going, you should probably answer those questions. But if the cop asks you more than that, you should seriously consider telling him or her you do not want to talk without a lawyer present to advise you.

If the investigator tells you that you don't need a lawyer because you are not under arrest, ask if you are free to go. If he or she says yes, by all means leave as quickly as you can without seeming like you are in a rush. If the investigator says no, you are not free to go, then you are under arrest whether he or she tells you so or not. You are under arrest, if a reasonable person in your situation would believe he or she is not free to leave.

You Have the Right to a Lawyer

You have a right to have a lawyer present to advise you if you are detained and being questioned by the police or other government investigators, including prosecutors. If you reasonably believe you are not free to leave and the police or other investigators try to ask you questions, you should politely but firmly tell them you do not want to answer any more questions without a lawyer present to advise you. Keep politely repeating this if they persist in trying to question you.

Never Consent to a Search

You have the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. If the police ask to search you, your home, or your vehicle without a warrant, say no! Even if they have a warrant, tell them you do not consent to the search. The reality is, if they have a warrant, they are going to search wherever the warrant allows them to search whether you object or not. But it is still important to object to the search because if you don't, any contraband or other evidence they find will be seized and used as evidence against you in court. If you object to the search and the police seize something that is not covered by the search warrant, that contraband or evidence may be suppressed and kept out of evidence that could be used against you in court.

Under certain circumstances the police are allowed to perform what is known as a "pat-down" or a "stop and frisk" search without a warrant or probable cause. If the police stop you on the street or ask you to get out of your vehicle after a motor vehicle stop, they have the right to pat you down to determine if you have a weapon that could be used against them. This kind of search is permitted for police safety. It is limited to looking for weapons. But make no mistake, if they find other contraband, like marijuana or other drugs, they are going to seize it and arrest you for being in possession of it.

Here again it is important to object to the search. If the police find contraband on you during the pat-down search, other than a weapon, and you have objected to the search, your criminal defense lawyer may be able to suppress that evidence and keep it from being used against you in court. If you don't object to the search, you will make it that much harder and maybe even impossible for your lawyer to suppress that evidence.

Do Not Resist or Interfere with an Arrest

You have a right to remain silent. You have a right to have a lawyer. You have a right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures and to object to searches and seizures. But always assert your rights politely and do not resist or interfere with an arrest, even your own. If you interfere with or resist arrest, you greatly increase your chances of being physically hurt and being charged with additional crimes.

Exercise Your Rights

Rights are like muscles, without exercise they atrophy and become weak. Please contact The Law Office of Jerome Paun for your free initial criminal consultation by telephone at 866-787-0119 or online by email.