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Crime and Punishment

For most people, familiarity with criminal law comes from movies, television and books. But, if you become personally involved in the criminal justice system, due to an arrest or as a victim of crime, it’s important to know exactly what the facts are. What rights do you have during an arrest? What guidelines do the police have to follow? What should you do if you suspect someone else of a crime?

Can the police make an arrest without a warrant?

If the police have “probable cause” or a good reason to believe a crime has been committed, then they can arrest that person without a warrant. However, there is one exception. The police must have a warrant to arrest someone inside their house if the arrest is a nonserious offense- such as assaut.

Do the police have to “read me my rights?”

No, but anything said without having your rights read to you is inadmissable in court and cannot be used against you at trial. Miranda warning includes:

  • You have the right to remain silent.
  • Anything you say can be used against you in a court of law.
  • You have the right to consult with an attorney.
  • If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be appointed for you.
  • If you choose to talk to the police officer, you have the right to stop the interview at any time.

Regardless of where the interrogaion occurs, the police must give a Miranda warning if you are in custody and if they want to use your answers at trial. A Miranda warning is not required if you are not in police custody.

Is my case dismissed if I was questioned without a Miranda warning?

No. If the police fail to give a Miranda wanrnig, your case will not be thrown out of court. However, the the information provided to the police can not be used against you in a court of law.

If I’m questioned by the police, what is the best way to remain silent?

There are no tricks. You don’t have to say anything to the police. You have the right to remain silent and can ask for an attorney at any point. Continuing to question you after you have asserted your right to remain silent is a clear violation of Miranda.

Are you required to give bodily samples if charged with a crime?

Yes. Bodily samples such as blood, hair, or fingernail clippings sounds like a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment; however, the U.S. Supreme Court thinks otherwise and has ruled that the Fifth Amendment protects communications only (bodily samples are considered physical evidence and therefore not covered by the Constitution).

Is it legal to be pulled over and questioned at a roadblock?

Yes, as long as the police use a neutral policy when stopping cars i.e stopping every third car or stopping all cars. The police can’t single out you unless they have “probable cause” or good reason to believe that you’ve broken the law.

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