What are my legal rights?
If you are being investigated by the police, have already been arrested, or charged, or are in custody, you have certain rights provided by the United States Constitution (federal law) and state rights that protect you:
- From false arrest, illegal detention/false imprisonment;
- From police brutality and from being treated unfairly by law enforcement; and
- To ensure the courts don't abuse your rights and that you have access to legal representation.
The Fourth Amendment Protects You from Illegal Search and Seizure
If you have not been arrested, you have the right to be free from illegal search and seizure. The police must have reasonable suspicion, probable cause, a search warrant, or your permission to search your body, car, property, or home. In many states, including Michigan, specific laws have been adopted making the use of racial profiling by law enforcement illegal. Racial profiling is a form of discrimination that some police use to target minorities. For example, the police are not allowed to stop you on the street and frisk you, or pull you over while driving simply because you are black in a "white neighborhood." It is important to hire a defense attorney that understands the nuances of search and seizure laws. Evidence that was illegally collected may be evidence we can get thrown out.
The Fifth Amendment Gives You the Right to Remain Silent
You probably have heard the term "Miranda Rights." These are the rights you have that police are required to tell you about. However, they only have to read you your Miranda Rights after you have been taken into custody. Police can and will question people who are suspected of a crime to start collecting incriminating information before arresting or charging them before their Miranda Rights have been read. Even though the Fifth Amendment gives you have the right to remain silent before and after you are charged, on June 1st, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in Berguhis v. Thompkins, that you must invoke that right. You cannot just sit there staring in silence; you have to invoke that right by telling the police you are choosing to remain silent and not answer their questions.
Remember, anything you say after your rights are read can be used against you but anything you say before your rights are read can also be used against you. If you are under police investigation, contact our attorneys immediately. Don’t help the police build a case against you by saying the wrong thing. We can help you respond to police questions without incriminating yourself.
Other Rights You Have Under the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution
- The right to due process. You cannot be deprived of "life, liberty, or property" without "due process of law."
- You can refuse to say anything that would incriminate you in a federal or state court in a criminal (or civil) proceeding.
- Evidence that was illegally obtained by law enforcement officers cannot be used as evidence against you.
- You cannot be tried twice (double jeopardy) for the same charge(s) if you were found innocent the first time. That state is not allowed to appeal a verdict of "not guilty" but the defendant does have the right to appeal a "guilty" verdict.
Sixth Amendment - The Right to an Attorney
Under the Sixth Amendment, you have the right to an attorney, or, to be appointed an attorney under certain circumstances if you cannot afford one. Public defenders are available to those who cannot afford an attorney (but are not necessarily free); however, hiring a private attorney is always in your best interest because they have better resources and more time to help you.
Your Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment Rights to Due Process
The Sixth Amendment also protects other rights of people accused of crimes, including:
- Notice of accusation (you must be told in clear terms what you are being charged with and given sufficient time and information to prepare a defense);
- The right to a speedy trial, a public trial, and an impartial jury; and
- The right to confront and cross-examine accusers.
The Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution also provides the right to due process and equal protection to all people. Also, in the Fourteenth Amendment, it is stated that the police are prohibited from using force, torture, or any other means to punish you while you are in their custody, and that states must abide by federal laws.
The Police Will Violate Your Rights to Get Evidence Against You
Law enforcement officials will try to make you feel as if they are on your side to gain your confidence but police are not your friends, and can, and do lie. Police may not even advise you of all your legal rights in a timely manner because they know that they can use anything you say against you before your rights are read.
If you have been arrested, the police already believe you broke the law and they will use scare tactics, deception, or try to gain your trust by acting friendly to try to get you to incriminate yourself and make their job easier. Sometimes, the tactics they use are even against the law and can result in innocent people being charged with crimes they did not commit.
Let Our Defense Attorneys Protect Your Constitutional Rights
If you have been arrested, you don't have to offer any information other than your identity. You have the right to refuse to be interrogated and you have the right to talk to an attorney before you say anything at all. If the police are starting to ask you questions, but haven't charged you with a crime, it's time to hire an aggressive defense lawyer. We offer "pre-file" services to help you protect your rights against self-incrimination. For a free initial consultation, contact our law offices today.