You have probably heard on television the speech that is read after an arrest:
“You have the right to remain silent. Anything that you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you free of charge.”
These are the “Miranda warnings,” which explain your constitutional right not to answer questions posed by the police and to have a lawyer appointed to represent you if you cannot afford to hire one.
In many arrests, the police do not attempt to take a statement from the person who is arrested. In such situations, the police may not read the Miranda warnings, since they are only required to do this when they intend to question a suspect. You should be aware that anything that you say in the presence of a police officer might be used against you, even if the Miranda warnings have not been given. Police are even allowed to use statements that they overhear you make during a telephone call, or while you are talking to other prisoners. You should be extremely careful what you say while you are in custody.
If the police decide to question you, their goal is to gather more evidence to use against you in court. Many of these conversations are recorded on video at the precinct. The police do not have to inform you that they are recording and often do not tell people they are recording. The video of your interrogation, including times when you are alone, will be used against you in court.
You should not answer questions or make a statement to the police unless there is a lawyer present to protect your rights. If you have information that will help your case, wait to tell it to your lawyer who will help you decide the best way to use this information. If you are already represented by a lawyer, you should tell the police and request ask them to notify your lawyer about your arrest.
The moment you are brought into an interview room, you should ask to speak to any attorney and say you do not want to answer questions. You should not sign any paperwork or forms. You should continue to ask for an attorney and continue to refuse to answer questions. If you are asked to give a DNA sample, you should refuse. If you are offered water, food, or cigarettes, you should not take them. Often, police use these items to collect your DNA without your consent. A sample of your DNA can be used in court against you.
The information in this document has been prepared by The Legal Aid Society for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. You should not act upon any information without retaining professional legal counsel.
Last Updated: 6 November 2019
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