Key tips to understanding your rights and avoid incriminating yourself.
1. Know whether or not you are free to leave.
Be aware of whether or not you are technically in custody. For instance, you can be stopped and questioned by a police officer while walking to the store, and questioned about a crime. If you do not feel free to leave and end the encounter you are likely in custody even if you haven't been arrested. If you're being interrogated while in custody you are entitled to your Miranda rights. Determining if you are in custody can be as simple as asking the officer if you are free to leave. Understanding when you can invoke your Miranda rights can help avoid incriminating yourself.
2. Ask for an attorney
Requesting an attorney as opposed to simply remaining silent can reduce the likelihood that law enforcement will make repeated attempts at questioning you about a specific incident while you are in custody.
3. Don't re-initiate conversation once you've asked for an attorney.
Once you've asked for an attorney, it would not be prudent to initiate further conversation with police. This is because you're essentially volunteering information and therefore waiving your right to have an attorney present. This means that any statements made would now become admissible even though you had previously asked for an attorney.
4. Don't give in to pressure or threats by law enforcement.
It's the police's job to get information out of you, if they have enough to charge you with a crime they wouldn't put a tremendous amount of effort into further questioning you about the crime. Police do not sentence criminals, judges do. Therefore it's important to remember that any leniency offered by a police officer will likely still be valid with an attorney present, should you decide it's in your best interest to cooperate.
5. Do not sign a confession without an attorney present.
You have nothing to gain by signing a confession or making an incriminating statement. If it's in your best interest to cooperate with police and/or sign a confession, it should only be done in the presence of an attorney to ensure that all parties involved honor any promises made.
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