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Your Rights if Arrested

Your Rights if ArrestedThe police do not decide your charges; they can only make recommendations. The prosecutor is the only person who can actually charge you. Remember this the next time the cops start rattling off all the charges they’re supposedly going to give you.

Fourth Amendment

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.”

The Fourth Amendment protection against “unreasonable searches and seizures” was adopted as a protection against the widespread invasions of privacy experienced by American colonists at the hands of the British government. So-called “writs of assistance” gave royal officers broad discretion to conduct searches of the homes of private citizens, primarily as a way of discovering violations of strict British customs laws. This practice led to a unique awareness among our founding fathers of the threat to individual liberty and privacy that is created by unchecked government search powers.

Today, the Fourth Amendment has lost its preferred status among our Bill of Rights protections. In recent decades, growing concerns regarding crime and public safety in America have forced our courts to sacrifice the privacy rights contained in the Constitution with the ever-expanding demands of law enforcement interests. The Supreme Court’s rulings in Fourth Amendment cases demonstrate the challenge involved in reconciling these competing ideals.

Ultimately, the Constitution’s prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures has been stripped in recent years and tailored to suit the needs of modern law enforcement as we wage wars against terrorism. For this reason, it is important for conscientious citizens to be familiar with the lawful parameters of police authority to conduct searches, as well as the legal doctrines by which that authority is limited.

Fifth Amendment

“…No person… shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself or be deprived of life liberty or property without due process of law…”

The right against self-incrimination has ancient roots in common law dating back to biblical times. While most provisions of the Fifth Amendment, such as the right to a jury trial and the right against double jeopardy, impose restrictions upon our courthouses, the right against self-incrimination has a profound effect upon the behavior of law enforcement officers as they investigate crimes. For this reason, the meaning of the self-incrimination clause has remained one of the most controversial issues in criminal procedure since the Supreme Court’s ruling in Miranda v. Arizona.

The Supreme Court now requires police to inform all criminal suspects of their right to remain silent prior to interrogation. This right extends from the point of arrest throughout the suspect’s involvement in the criminal justice system. While many in the law enforcement community feel that this restriction unfairly limits the ability of police and prosecutors to obtain convictions, studies have shown that conviction rates have not changed significantly since the court first required police to inform arrestees of their right against self-incrimination.

Sixth Amendment

“In all criminal proceedings, the accused shall enjoy the right…to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.”

The Sixth Amendment right to counsel is a critical component of the Bill of Rights. It provides the accused with a lawyer who is trained in the legal process and can provide a safeguard against violations of the suspect’s other Bill of Rights protections.

Everyone charged with a serious crime in the United States today enjoys the assistance of a defense attorney regardless of economic status. State-employed public defenders represent clients who cannot afford their own attorneys, and contrary to popular belief, achieve roughly equal outcomes for their clients compared to privately-hired lawyers.

The Relationship Between Self-incrimination and the Right to Counsel

Many Americans have become cynical about police practices and our legal system. It’s not uncommon to lose hope when arrested or even become angry at the officer or the law they are enforcing. It’s essential to remember that our legal system does provide services for the accused.

If you’re arrested, it cannot be overstated how important it is to wait for legal advice before attempting to discuss a criminal charge with police.

Never rely on police to inform you of your right to remain silent and see a lawyer. Tell them, “I’m going to remain silent. I would like to see a lawyer.” If police persist in questioning you, repeat those words. Those words are like a legal condom. They’re your best protection if you’re under arrest.

For a free consultation with Los Angeles criminal defense attorney Avi Zvulun, call (818) 720-5288