For most people, interacting with the police can be unnerving — at best. They have authority. They have weapons. They have handcuffs and can take you away from your family. By law, they can even lie to you — although you (by law) cannot lie to them.
That’s why it’s understandable that a lot of people blurt out the answers to anything the police ask them — even when they’re not legally required to do so.
To better protect your rights, these are some facts everyone should commit to memory regarding dealing with the police:
Do not assume that because you are innocent that you aren’t under investigation for a crime. Innocent people get investigated, arrested and even sent to prison all the time.
The police do not have to remind you of the Miranda Rights (the right to remain silent and to have an attorney) unless you are both in custody and being interrogated. Have the police simply asked to talk to you? You aren’t in custody. Anything you say is fair game in court later. Are you under arrest but not being formally interrogated? Anything you say is still fair game in court later.
If the police stop you somewhere in public, you don’t have to disclose who you are or why you are there. Ask if you are being detained. If not, you have the right to refuse to give the officer any information.
Do not, however, lie to officers about who you are. If a police officer correctly identifies you, do not confirm or deny it. Again, simply ask if the officer is detaining you.
If arrested, you do have to give the officer your identifying information, such as your name, birth date and address. You should then decline to answer all further questions until you speak to a criminal defense attorney.
Do not give into the temptation — no matter how strong the officers make it — to “clear the air” and think that you are going to walk out of the jail once you’re under arrest. If the officers have gone that far, they have no intention of letting you go.