Know Your Rights
This is a guide for knowing what to do when encountering the police. Each type of police encounter is described along with the Constitutional rights you have during each encounter. Knowing what to do during each can make a substantial difference to how your case is ultimately decided.
Consensual EncounterThis type of police encounter occurs when an officer asks to speak with you and you voluntarily agree. The key is VOLUNTARILY agree. There is no law or rule that requires you to speak with the police if they simply want to talk to you. You have the right to refuse and walk away. Even if you begin talking to the police, you have the right to end the encounter at any time. But, because it is a voluntary encounter, the police do not have to provide you with Miranda Warnings prior to talking with you. The right you have to remain silent is basically your right of refusal. Otherwise, anything you say is fair game.
DetentionsThis type of encounter occurs when an officer has detained you for further investigation. This is technically not custody, so in a way you are not arrested but you're also not free to leave. Just like with a consensual encounter, though, you do not have to talk to the police if you do not want to. The only time you are required to speak to the police is during a roadside encounter in which the police is asking for personal information. Otherwise, there is no requirement that you talk to the police.
Now, depending up on the situation, Miranda Warnings may be required, but not always. It is important, however, that if you feel like you are not free to leave to invoke your right to remain silent and request a lawyer. Do not ask if you need a lawyer or if you should remain silent. Be affirmative and not wishy-washy. Invoke your right to remain silent and demand a lawyer.
Roadside DetentionThis type of encounter occurs during traffic stops. There is no right to Miranda Warnings in this situation. That said, you do not have to explain every detail to the officer if you do not want to. This primarily pertains to DWI stops. Even though the officer might try and tell you that you MUST perform the field sobriety tests, you actually have the right to refuse. Even during no refusal weekends. There are repercussions for this, however, such as a longer suspension for your license. But it can mean a huge difference during your criminal case.
ArrestThis type of encounter occurs when you have been formally arrested via handcuffs or other mechanism so that your freedom is restricted. You are not free to leave. But, you also do not have to talk. Miranda warnings are now required. For the sake of your case and the attorney that will represent you, DO NOT WAIVE YOUR MIRANDA RIGHTS. If the cops want to talk to you, DEMAND A LAWYER FIRST!! If/when the time comes to talk to the police your attorney can arrange the process. You have a Constitutional right. Don't take it lightly.