Your Rights if Arrested

An arrest occurs when a law enforcement officer takes a person into custody for questioning concerning a crime or offense. A citizen may make an arrest if he witnesses or has knowledge of a crime or sees a suspect trying to escape.

An arrest warrant is a judicial order authorizing an officer to make an arrest. The warrant is not necessary if the crime is in progress, the suspect is attempting escape, or a failure of justice would occur because of the lack of a warrant.

An officer may stop and question a person in a public place if he has sufficient reason. Similarly, he may ask a person to get out of the vehicle while investigating a traffic or other violation. However, while the officer may question a person, the person has the right not to answer.

Upon making an arrest, the officer may search the person, any carrying articles, and the suspect's immediate area. A search warrant gives the officer the authority to search a certain place for certain property. If the person refuses admittance or no one answers the door, the officer may break into the building to conduct the search. The person may request an inventory of any items
seized in the search.

A person should not use force against a law enforcement officer to resist arrest or prevent a search, even if a clear violation of individual rights occurs. The person should instead call attention to the possible rights violation and note it for future reference in subsequent proceedings.

The officer must inform a person taken into custody of his rights. These include the right to remain silent, to telephone his attorney or family, to know that anything said can and will be used against him in court, to have an attorney present during questioning or a line up, and to have the court appoint an attorney if the suspect cannot afford one. If a person initially waives the right to an attorney, he can later request one. A suspect may also waive these rights and make a statement.

For a felony or misdemeanor, fingerprinting and photographing the suspect becomes a part of a police record. If the person is found not guilty or authorities dismiss the case, the records should be updated to note the disposition. The person may ask the court to seal the record.