It is important to know your rights when being questioned in a police encounter in all phases of an investigation. Whether you are the subject of a traffic stop or you are being questioned concerning a potential crime, the protocol is essentially the same.
Offering too much information without being asked is often the wrong thing to do, especially if the officer may suspect you are involved in illegal activity. Several legalities do not apply until a suspect is actually in custody and charged by the officer, such as being allowed to talk to a lawyer.
But, there are several tips that anyone should follow when the potential for arrest is imminent.
Always be respectful when questioned by the police, but be very careful not to answer any question in great detail. Succinct and minimal yes and no responses are perfectly acceptable, even when an officer is attempting to acquire more information than you are willing to supply.
Always remember that the officer has the power to arrest and charge any suspect if they can find any probable cause, including their own observation. Even though you have the right to remain silent, sometimes an arrest can be avoided with simple truthful answers. However, any suspect has a right to refuse to incriminate themselves by talking. When police say that anything you say or do may be used against you, they mean it. Don’t make the officer suspicious.
It is perfectly acceptable to ask if you are free to go if the officer appears to be done questioning. Another acceptable question is asking the officer what you are being investigated for or why you are being questioned if it is a traffic stop. Your vehicle is private property and an officer will need a warrant to search your vehicle if you do not consent. Many times an officer will search a vehicle without the owner’s consent if they can justify reasonable suspicion that contraband is in the vehicle. However, this police action can also become part of the material case record and could constitute an illegal search and seizure. Never consent to a search, even when you are innocent!
In California a defendant who is already in custody is allowed three phone calls in a three-hour time period immediately following arrest. These calls can be to anyone you need to contact, such as a family member, bail bonding agency, or an attorney. However, always remember that your phone call will be made on police property and they can listen in on the conversation. Never talk about your case on the phone other than your specific charge and bond information.
Remember, you have the right to protect yourself, so educate yourself on the proper protocol when it comes to police encounters. And for times when you do need a little help, give us a call right away!
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