Arrested by the Police: What are your Rights?

If a police officer has reason to believe that you have committed — or are in the process of committing — a crime, they will arrest you. Being arrested can take several forms including being handcuffed, put in the back of a locked police vehicle, being ‘booked’ at a station and/or having your fingerprints and photograph taken. While being arrested doesn’t mean that you are guilty of what you’re suspected of, and you may well be released without charge, it is likely to be a highly stressful and upsetting experience. If you aren’t familiar with criminal proceedings, then you are unlikely to understand your rights.

This guide has been created to help you so if you are arrested at any point in the future, you can remember the following pieces of advice.

How Long Could You be Held For?

While there isn’t an official limit in terms of how long an adult can be detained for prior to being charged, in most states they will charge or release you in 72 hours. However, a judge can decide that someone has been held for too long. They will take into account how long you have been in custody, whether your Miranda rights have been read (and if so, how many times) and how you have been held.

If the police arrest a minor, they need to consider several factors when deciding how long to keep them in custody, such as the nature of the charges, any special requirements the minor has, the attitude of the minor and their family, any previous criminal activity and/or whether they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If they have been drinking or taking drugs, they cannot be taken into custody. The police can arrest juveniles who they believe are being neglected or require supervision.

Do You Need to Give the Police Any Information?

The law requires that you must tell the police your real name, your address, age, and date of birth. If your cellphone is taken from you and they intend to look through it for evidence, they may ask you for any security passcodes or for you to unlock it for them. You are not required by law to do this or answer any of their questions. Find out more about what to do if the police have your phone for evidence.

What Are Your Rights?

In addition to treating you humanely and providing you with food, shelter and any medical attention required, the police have to inform you of your Miranda warnings and rights. If they don’t, any information you give them may be inadmissible at a later date should they wish to charge you. Your warnings and rights will be read to you when you are taken into custody and definitely before any questioning begins.

  • You have the right to remain silent, even when asked direct questions about a crime, and therefore do not need to speak to police or any lawyers other than your own.

  • Anything you do or say can and will be used against you in a court of law as evidence.

  • You have the right to a lawyer and can make a number of phone calls to contact a lawyer and/or a family member.

  • If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be provided for you, i.e. a public defender.