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What are your rights when interacting with police?

by | Oct 19, 2017 | Blog |

Police officers in every state, including Kansas, have a way of making people believe that they have the law on their side. In many cases, that may be true, but that doesn’t mean that they can ignore you rights under the United States Constitution.

The same is true of federal agents from agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) or the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), among others. They must follow the appropriate policies and procedures in order to ensure that they don’t violate your constitutional rights.

There you were just walking down the street

If a federal agent, state or local police officer approaches you on the street, you do not have to answer any questions other than to tell him or her your name. Just as they have the right to stop you if they believe you may be involved in criminal activity, you have the right not to incriminate yourself.

There was no warrant for your arrest

Agents or officers don’t always need a warrant to make an arrest. Under the following circumstances, none is needed:

  • If they have sufficient probable cause
  • If they have reasonable belief that you may destroy evidence
  • If they have reason to believe you may harm someone

In the absence of these circumstances, they must obtain a warrant that identifies a specific individual and the crime allegedly committed.

There was no Miranda warning

If you aren’t in custody (meaning you lack the freedom to act), the law does not require a Miranda warning. However, any statements you make do not become evidence later. If you are in custody, no Miranda warning is necessary until police ask you questions.

If you receive no warning before questioning, authorities can’t use your statements as evidence against you. This violation of your rights generally makes anything that transpires thereafter inadmissible in court. That does not mean that any charges filed against you automatically go away, however.

There comes a time when you want to stop talking

Even if you initially cooperate with authorities and answer questions, you may stop doing so at any time. If you say that you refuse to answer further questions without an attorney or invoke your right to remain silent, the questioning must stop.

They have ways of making you talk

Of course, law enforcement officials cannot coerce information out of you. They cannot torture you, threaten you, treat you inhumanely or drug you. However, they can trick you, lie to you and use any tactics not considered coercive to get you to talk.

There was no warrant for physical evidence from your person

Collecting physical evidence from your body, including hair and blood samples does not violate your constitutional rights under the Fifth Amendment according to the U.S. Supreme Court.

There is something that you can do

When interacting with police under any of the above circumstances, it would likely be in your best interests to ask for an attorney as soon in the process as possible. You may want to take advantage of your right to remain silent even if you aren’t under arrest but law enforcement officials believe you committed a crime. Under these circumstances, a good offense is often the best defense — or at least the start of one.