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In police encounters it is important for citizens to understand their constitutional rights, especially if they are being arrested. While the situation might never occur, it is essential that people are informed of their rights and be prepared.

Remain Calm

When first confronted by a police officer it is important to stay calm and be polite. Do not get defensive, angered, or start apologizing, as this could be used against you in court. First, ask if you are free to leave. If the officer says yes, you can calmly walk away. If the officer says no, this means you are being detained, which may or may not lead to an arrest. When this is happening, do not resist detention or arrest, even if you are innocent. Anything done to you that is unfair or unjust will be determined later in court.

Stay Silent

When you are arrested, you have the right to remain silent. That means if you go to court it will not be held against you that you did not answer questions. Under the Fifth amendment, which protects individuals from self-incrimination, you do not have to say anything. Tell the officer that you wish to remain silent and then keep quiet; even casual talk can be taken into account later in court. Everything that you say in jail, except to your lawyer, can be monitored and recorded and used against you. Also remember that you do not have to let them search your car or home without a warrant.

Ask For A Lawyer

As soon as you are arrested ask for your lawyer. Even if you do not have one or cannot afford one, you can ask and a lawyer will be provided for you. Many people don’t realize that they are eligible for a public defender and hesitate to request one due to costs or financial restraints. The fact that you have a job doesn’t disqualify you from a public attorney. The rules vary by state, but you will be given the chance to apply for one. Once you get a lawyer, remember to only talk to him/her.  Everything that you say in jail, except to your lawyer, can be monitored, recorded and used against you.

Knowing your rights when you are detained or arrested is extremely important. Whether guilty or not, you have constitutional rights to ensure fairness in the criminal justice system.