Imagine that you are walking down the street and a police officer stops you and begins to ask you questions. They may interrogate you and make you feel like you have to comply with them and that you cannot leave. If this is the case, remember that you do have rights and there are several questions you should ask the officer.
1) Am I Being Detained?
It is called a detention if you are being detained. It can feel similar to an arrest but there are significant differences between the two regarding both what the police can do and what your rights are. Police officers can stop someone to detain and question them if they have a reasonable suspicion that the person they are stopping has been or may be involved in a crime. There must be more evidence than a hunch.
One important thing to remember about detainment is that the police are not required to tell you whether they are detaining you. This means that if they do not have reasonable suspicion and they question you and you answer or allow them to voluntarily search you, it is probably not illegal if you do not object or ask questions. That is why it is always important to ask the officer if you are being detained and if you are free to leave.
2) Am I Being Arrested?
An arrest is when the police officer takes you into custody and deprives you of your freedom of movement. To arrest someone, the police must show that they have probable cause. Probable cause is when there is a reasonable basis that a crime has been committed. It is a flexible concept and any arrest that happens will be brought before a judge to decide whether the arrest was done with the correct probable cause.
One way to tell if you have been arrested is whether the officers read you for Miranda rights. These are a list of rights that must be verbally told to you before an officer can question you further. These include the right to remain silent, the right to an attorney, and that anything you do say may be used against you in court.
3) What Am I Being Detained or Arrested For?
The officer must be able to show either reasonable suspicion for a detention or probable cause for an arrest. If they cannot prove this then the detention or arrest will be illegal. You have a right to know why you are being either detained or arrested. It is important to ask this question and to remember what the officer says.
Asking this question will help you know how you should answer police questions. Be careful here because they can say things to try and make you volunteer information. For example, they may say you are not a suspect but then they question you as if you are one. If you are not being detained or arrested, you should be free to leave and you should not have to answer their questions.
4) Is There a Warrant for my Arrest?
A warrant is needed for many arrests. A warrant for your arrest is a document issued by a judge that allows police to take someone accused of a certain crime into custody. If a warrant is issued, this means that the police have already shown that they have probable cause to arrest you.
If you are arrested without a warrant, the police must prove more to a judge to show that you were legally arrested. They will need to show both that they had the probable cause to arrest you and that there was no time to seek a warrant before your arrest. If they cannot prove either of these, then the arrest will be unlawful.
5) Can I Talk to My Lawyer?
This is an extremely important question to ask. You can ask for a criminal lawyer if you are being detained or arrested. You can also ask it even when the officer assures you that you are not being taken into custody. It is best to have a lawyer on your side for your protection. They can explain your rights and make sure that the police do not unlawfully detain or arrest you.
One part of the Miranda rights is that you have a right to a lawyer. You will be appointed a public defender by the court if you cannot afford an attorney on your own. This means that you have the right to talk to an attorney before you are questioned by the police even if you cannot afford one. Simply tell the officers you cannot afford one but you need to talk to a lawyer before questioning.