From being held in police custody to formally being charged with a crime, there are many aspects of the criminal legal system that are foreign and overwhelming. Knowing your rights and responsibilities as a citizen can make the process of being arrested and going through the criminal justice system less confusing, so understanding them is an important step in protecting your own best interests. Fortunately, this article demystifies know your rights and explains what you should — and shouldn’t — do when you are arrested.
1. Know Your Rights: What to Do if Arrested
No matter what the situation, it’s important to remain as calm as possible. Doing something rash during an arrest or legal proceedings can lead to further complications or charges. If you are being arrested, remain calm and listen to the instructions of the police. Take a deep breath and respond to the officer when spoken to.
Exercise Your Rights
When it comes to your legal rights, it’s important to know and understand them throughout any legal process. Here are some important things you should do:
- Be silent and refuse to talk to the police until you’ve consulted with a lawyer
- Remember you have the right to remain silent and do not have to answer questions without a lawyer present
- Don’t sign any papers from the police until you have consulted a lawyer
- Inform the police that you want to contact your lawyer
- Once you have spoken to the lawyer, make sure that you have fully understood their advice before making any decisions
It’s also important to understand that you have the right to legal representation, regardless of your financial situation. Be aware of these rights and ensure you are adequately protected.
2. How to Prepare Yourself for Potential Arrests
When the potential for arrests arises, it’s essential that everybody involved be well-prepared. While it’s a distressing thought, it’s preferable to take the necessary precautions prior to any actual arrests taking place. Here are a few guidelines you can use to protect yourself.
- Know your rights:Research relevant laws and bills passed in your area, and familiarize yourself with your rights when it comes to being questioned or detained by the authorities.
- Find a lawyer:Make sure you know who to call for advice in the case of arrest. Acquire contact details for a lawyer you can turn to for guidance.
It’s also advisable to keep your identity documents (such as birth certificate, driver’s license, and passport) in a secure place, so that they can be easily accessed in a moment of distress. Along with this, it would be wise to inform any trusted contacts or friends that you participate in activities that could potentially lead to arrests. That way, they will be able to reach out to the necessary authorities should they be required to.
3. Strategies to Follow When Arrested
Be sure to remain calm. Panic won’t help you in this situation. There are certain steps you should take if you ever find yourself arrested—ensuring that you can best protect your rights, and successfully navigate the criminal justice system. Here are the three essential strategies:
- Know Your Rights – You have rights when arrested, like the right to stay silent, the right to an attorney, or the right to make a phone call. Familiarizing yourself with them ahead of time may help you should you ever find yourself in that situation.
- Maintain Respectful Behavior – Keep your calm throughout the process, and don’t argue with the officers. Doing so could be taken as accusation and can lead to additional charges.
- Seek Legal Assistance – An attorney can help you navigate the legal system, protect your rights, assess your case, and determine if the procedures used were appropriate
The most important thing you can do after an arrest is make sure to use your rights. Knowing what you’re entitled to, and how to respond, may be the difference between a conviction and reaching a favorable outcome.
4. Consequences of Not Knowing Your Rights
Not knowing your rights can have serious consequences. It’s important to stay informed and keep up with any new rules or laws that may affect you. Here are some of the risks you may face if you don’t know your rights:
- Loss of income. Your lack of knowledge about laws or regulations could lead to lost income due to fines or even lawsuits. This can be devastating, especially for people who rely on their earnings to survive.
- Decreased access to basic needs. Knowing your rights can protect you from any restrictions on the access to services you and your family need, such as health care, education, and housing.
- Deprivation of freedom. Ignorance of the law can lead to incarceration without due process or, if you’re an immigrant, even deportation if you violate certain immigration laws.
The truth is, you don’t have to be a legal expert to be aware of your civil rights. Reading up on topics, such as employment laws, immigration reform, and health care regulations will give you a better understanding of your rights and the power you have to defend them.
We have all been there—facing the unfamiliar processes of being arrested and searched. But, remember, with the knowledge of your rights and the understanding of what to do and not do, you will still have a fighting chance when facing such difficult circumstances. Knowing your rights is the first step to take in protecting yourself. You can now take comfort in the knowledge that you are armed with the right information to make smart decisions during your arrest.