Being arrested can be a frightening experience, especially if you are not guilty of any crime. Arresting police officers have to adhere to a number of rules and regulations regarding their conduct, and also in regard to respecting your rights — whether you are innocent or guilty of the crime you have been arrested for. After all, in the US. everyone is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
Everyone who has watched a cop show on TV thinks they know what police officers can and can’t do in the process of arresting a suspect, but it is worth knowing the facts about being arrested, in case it should ever happen to you.
When Can You Be Arrested?
First and foremost, it is important to know that a police officer can only arrest an individual under certain circumstances and that if your arrest is subsequently found not to fall into one of these categories, it can result in the case being thrown out before it even reaches court. If the arresting officer has witnessed you committing a crime then it goes without saying that they can arrest you. This also applies to drivers arrested for drunk driving after being pulled over for a breathalyzer test.
If there is a warrant out for your arrest, then any police officer who tracks you down can arrest you. Warrants can be issued if you are named as a suspect in a crime, but they can also be issued if you fail to turn up for a court appearance or fail to pay a fine for a previous offense.
Finally, and this is the category where there is the biggest gray area, an officer can arrest you if there is “probable cause” that you have committed a crime. For example, if a police officer hears on their radio that an armed robbery has been carried out a few streets away by someone matching your description, and they then see you running away from the scene of the crime, they would claim that this gives them probable cause to arrest you.
It is important to challenge immediately any arrest that you suspect may not be legal; call a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer for advice or representation if you have concerns about the conduct of arresting officers in your case.
Your Rights If You Have Been Arrested
Thanks to TV shows, most people now know that police officers have a legal obligation to make a suspect aware of their rights if they are being arrested. These are called the Miranda rights, named after a 1966 court case, Miranda vs. Arizona, which ruled that any statements made by an individual in custody could only be admitted as evidence in court if they had been informed first that they also had the right to remain silent and the right to see an attorney.
If an arresting police officer fails to make you aware of your rights, any statements you make are not admissible in any future court case. In addition, any subsequent evidence found because of statements made by an individual who had not been read their Miranda rights are also inadmissible. You could confess to an armed robbery, telling the police where they could find the stolen items and the weapons you used, but if you did so without being informed of your rights, then none of that information could be used at any subsequent trial.
Right to an Attorney
Part of the Miranda rights includes making those who have been arrested aware of their right to an attorney, and that if the individual cannot afford an attorney that the court will appoint one to act on their behalf. It is important to understand that asking for an attorney is not in any way an admission of your guilt; in fact, if you are innocent and have never been arrested for a crime before, then you will probably have more need of a criminal defense lawyer than people who understand how the system works.
Once you have called your own attorney or had one appointed for you, the police can no longer question you without your lawyer being present. This helps to protect your rights throughout the whole criminal justice process, as well as ensuring you have someone on hand who can explain the process to you and give you advice on the best course of action. Sometimes that best course of action will be to accept a plea deal — where the arrested individual pleads guilty to a crime in exchange for a lighter sentence — and it will be the job of your attorney to negotiate the best plea deal possible for you, as their client.