What Are Your Rights If You Get Arrested in Florida?
Practical advice from experienced and compassionate legal counsel
Most Americans are familiar with the Miranda warnings police are required to read to suspects in custody. If you’ve watched any television detective show, you’ve probably heard this:
“You have the right to remain silent. If you give up the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided to you. Do you understand these rights as I have explained them to you?”
These rights, present in the Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, are meant to protect citizens from overzealous police tactics. If you are arrested on any criminal charge, it’s important to have a full and complete understanding of your rights. As a general rule, an arrested person should:
- Invoke the right to remain silent
- Invoke the right to have an attorney present
- Remain silent until you’ve met with your attorney and received reliable advice
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Your Fourth Amendment right to be free from unlawful search and seizure
In order to search your person, car, residence or office, the police must have a warrant signed by a judge. The police may have sufficient reason to believe you’ve committed a crime, but that doesn’t permit them unrestrained access to your personal belongings. The Constitution places a check on police power by requiring them to present their suspicions to a judge or magistrate, who then concludes whether their suspicion is based on reasonable facts. Police who search private areas and seize evidence without first obtaining a warrant are barred from using that evidence at trial. The only exception is an emergency where seeking a warrant would create a delay during which a crime could be committed or evidence could be destroyed.
Your Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate yourself
Your “right to remain silent” comes from the Fifth Amendment, which forbids police from compelling a person to be a witness against himself. Over the years, courts have presented many opinions defining compulsion, and these decisions have limited police tactics for eliciting confessions. Gone is the old “third degree.” Police are barred from using sleep deprivation, bright lights, beatings with rubber hoses and phone books, and even persistent questioning.
Your Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights to due process
Due process is a broad term dealing with lawful police procedures and fair trials. For an arrested person, the most important immediate rights are the right to an attorney and the right to be charged or released. It is vitally important that you invoke your right to an attorney immediately upon arrest. This is the best way to ensure that you retain your Fifth Amendment right to be free of compulsion. Once you request an attorney, the police must discontinue questioning until the attorney arrives. Also, demanding an attorney helps ensure that the authorities either charge or release you within the statutory period, rather than trying to “sweat you out” in confinement. If the prosecutor charges you, your criminal defense lawyer should be present to request bail. While you do not have an absolute right to bail, if the court sets bail, it must be reasonable.