The Police Want To Ask Me Questions. Do I Need A Lawyer?
The police can stop someone anywhere, if they have reasonable suspicion that the person may have been involved in a crime. But even if a police officer stops you on the street to ask you questions, you do not have to answer any questions.
If you are not in police custody, have not been arrested, and are simply “talking with” a police officer, anything you say can be used against you. This is because you have not been arrested and Miranda Rights do not yet apply. So if you are being questioned by an officer before being taken into formal custody, be aware that your words can get you into trouble. Even if you are in a police station and are being asked questions without being “held,” what you say can be used against you in court.
A good example of being at a police station, but not being in custody is that of a police “interview” regarding a crime. These interviews can be taped and otherwise recorded and what you say can be used in court against anyone charged in the case, even if you are the one eventually charged.
After you are in custody, it is always the best option to say you want to speak to your lawyer before answering any questions.
The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution provides citizens with the right against self-incrimination. Using this right, you do not have to answer any questions. The exception to this is in answering the question of your legal name. If a police officer asks you your name, you must provide that and only that information.
Miranda Rights in Questioning and Arrest
One confusing issue for many people is whether a citizen must be advised of his or her Miranda rights before arrest. Miranda warning protects citizens before questioning by police, but these rights are not a prerequisite for arrest or detainment.
The only way police or prosecutors can use self-incriminating evidence against a person in court is if the police advised the person of their Miranda rights before asking them questions after arrest. This is the result of a 1966 case in the U.S. Supreme Court, Miranda v. Arizona. Miranda v. Arizona specifies, a person must be advised of his or her rights before being questioned in “police custody.” Custody can vary in appearance, whether it is in a jail cell or through another form of holding that individual. The legal definition of custody refers to “deprivation of a person’s freedom of action through significant means.”
Any information gathered by police that may be used in trial against a person must have been provided after the police give full warning using the following statement:
“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you. If you decide to answer questions, you have the right to stop at any time.”
Any evidence gathered from interview of a suspect prior to this statement is inadmissible in court and can be challenged by an experienced criminal defense lawyer. An experienced lawyer will also know to use the “fruit of the poisonous tree” doctrine to object to presentation or use of any evidence collected based upon improper interrogation conducted prior to Miranda warning.
The prosecution can still bring charges against a person, even after Miranda warning was not properly applied before interrogation. Prosecutors cannot use evidence gathered as a result of that illegal interrogation, but they can use other evidence to present the case.
Invoking Your Right to a Lawyer
You can stop police questioning or interrogation at any time by invoking your Miranda rights, even if you have already answered questions for police. All you must do is to refuse to answer any more questions and ask to speak to a lawyer. Or, you can simply request to “remain silent.” Police are required by law to stop asking questions if you choose to invoke your right to remain silent. You will often hear this right referred to as “Fifth Amendment rights,” “right to remain silent,” or “Miranda rights.”
Breaking through the Confusion: Call an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer
The issues of self-incrimination and Miranda Rights can be confusing. If you have participated in a crime, aided a criminal action or been accused of a crime, it is always best to speak to a lawyer before answering questions by police. As a suspect who may be charged or someone who already has charges against them, you need a lawyer to help you know what to say, what not to say and how to appropriately phrase your statements so they will not mislead police or prosecutors into further charges against you.
David Michael Cantor of the Law Offices of David Michael Cantor is listed in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers® and has the experience you need on your side to fight criminal charges in Arizona. Call the Law Offices of David Michael Cantor at (602) 307-0808 to schedule a free consultation or when you are in police custody and need help.