Know Your Rights When Talking to Police

Police traffic stop

The Constitution. The Bill of Rights. The Fourth and Fifth Amendments.

These are powerful tools that protect you from police over-reaching. But unless you know how to use these tools – and know that you have the right to use them - they are meaningless.

Should I consent to a search of my house, my car, or my body?

Do you know your rights when talking to police? Some people believe that refusing a police officer’s request to search their car, house, or person makes them guilty.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Under the Fourth Amendment, you have a constitutional right to decide whether or not you will allow a police officer to search your home, your car, or your person, without a warrant. However, the Fourth Amendment does not require the police to tell you that you have your right to refuse a search. It’s up to you to know you rights, and it’s up to you to assert your rights.

Before consenting to a search, there are a number of things you should think about.

1. The police will not be gentle with your property or belongings. There’s a good chance they’ll break something. And when they do, there's a very good chance you won’t be compensated for it.

2. You have no idea what other people may have done in your residence or your car. If you are not the first owner, you cannot know what the prior owners may have done. You have no idea what came into your house, or what a careless friend or passenger may have had in your car - regardless of whether you were there with them. Someone could have borrowed your car and smoked a joint. Or a friend could have had marijuana or another drug in their pocket that fell out while they were riding with you.

If the police find evidence of a crime in your house or car – whether it's drug residue, drug paraphernalia, or drugs themselves – you will be arrested, even if you had nothing to do with it.

3. You should never consent to a search. Consenting to the search makes it legal in the eyes of the law. In most instances, you have the right to make the police get a warrant before conducting a search.

By refusing to allow police to search your car, house, or person, you give your central-Florida criminal defense lawyer a much better chance of winning your case. By refusing the search, I can argue that the search was illegal. Even if we don’t win the suppression hearing and have your case dismissed, I can still use the fact that the search was illegal as a bargaining chip, and use the hearing to learn more about the prosecution’s case against you.

Should I talk to the police if I'm a suspect or have been arrested?

1. Don't talk to the police. You will never convince them that they were wrong, and you will not be able to talk yourself out of getting arrested. You will never hear a criminal defense lawyer say “Gee, I wish my client had just talked to the police officer.” And you will never hear a police officer say “My bad. You’re right. We got the wrong guy.” You cannot talk your way out of being arrested. Better to let yourself get arrested, say nothing to the police – or anyone else, for that matter – then call a skilled and experienced Florida criminal defense lawyer to get you out of jail and fight the charges. Your lawyer will thank you for it, and you’ll have a better chance of beating the case if the police do not have evidence of anything you said.

2. It’s easy for the police to twist your words into something incriminating. Even the smallest mistake - and almost everyone will make a mistake at some point when they’re talking to the police – can and will be used against you.

3. Anything helpful that you say to the police cannot be used at trial. During trial, if I try to ask the police officer what you said during the arrest, the prosecutor will object, claiming that the statement is hearsay. And the judge will have to agree with them. So it's better not to say anything to the police.

4. Even if you are guilty, there's no need to tell the police immediately. Wait. Your lawyer can probably get something in return. If you’re charged with a crime, you’ll have plenty of time to admit guilt. In federal court, an astonishing 85% of people plead guilty to something. So why do it early? Wait to see if your lawyer can get the prosecutor to reduce the charge, or work out some kind of arrangement to get you a reduced sentence.

5. By talking to the police, you only give them evidence that can be used to convict you. Even the most innocent statement can be taken out of context at trial and used to convict you.

You have a Fifth Amendment right not to talk to the police. Use it. You’ll give yourself a much better chance of having the charges reduced, or having your case dismissed.

Arrested? Charged with a Crime? Contact The Law Office of Jody L. Fisher

If you've been arrested and are facing criminal charges, contact an experienced and skilled central-Florida criminal defense lawyer. At The Law Office of Jody L. Fisher, I offer confidential consultations. Call me at (352) 503-4111, email, or complete our online information form today.

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