Many people are not fully aware of their rights when they encounter law enforcement. We have all heard: “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in the court of law…”
The fact is that you do have the right to remain silent and if you want to exercise this right, you must verbally say so. This includes your right to not make any oral statements that may be put down in writing, as to what allegedly transpired and led to your being approached by law enforcement. Also, you have a right to decline consent to sign any documents that the police ask you to sign without a lawyer present.
Most importantly, you have a right to a lawyer if you are arrested or questioned. You should ask for an attorney immediately. At this point all questioning should come to a halt.
One very significant and important right you do have is when you are either pulled over for an alleged traffic infraction or law enforcement comes to your home. You have the absolute right to refuse to consent to a search of your vehicle or your home unless law enforcement personnel have a warrant to do so.
However, keep in mind you do not have a right to make any false statements or lie to law enforcement. You should do your best to be polite and stay calm even though you may not be forthcoming with answering any questions.
You may think that being cooperative with law enforcement will benefit your case, but many times there is not much of a case against you until you start making statements or signing documents without your lawyer present. Be polite and respectful, but do not give up your rights. Call your lawyer as soon as you can so that he/she can properly advise you from the outset. Know and use your rights!
Speak Up to be Silent was Posted by Tara Senft, Attorney at Law
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