We have all seen police officers on television reading suspects their rights. This is called your Miranda warning. Some people refer to them as your Miranda rights. Law enforcement officers must advise you of these rights after you are in their custody (a reasonable person would not feel free to leave) and before any questioning about the events that led to the "arrest." So the first question you should ask an officer is "Am I free to leave?" If he says yes, then calmly go about your business. If he says no, then you must stay until you are released.
So what are your most important "Miranda" rights?
You have the right to remain silent.
You have the right to speak to an attorney before any questioning.
If you cannot afford an attorney, the court will appoint you an attorney.
So what does this mean?
Anyone suspected of a crime who is not free to leave, does not have to answer any questions. This right applies even if you are not told you have this right.
Law enforcement officers cannot ask you any questions (other than routine booking questions, like your name, address. etc.), once you clearly tell them that you would like to speak with an attorney before any questioning. And you have the right to make a phone call to your attorney before any questioning begins.
If you do not have an attorney you can call or talk to about your case, you are entitled to an attorney appointed by the court to help you defend yourself, usually the public defender but sometimes private counsel on their list of approved attorneys. This is completely free defense, if you qualify as financially incapable of paying for your attorney ("indigent"). This right does not apply while you are being booked but only before any questioning and at all important court proceedings, such as arraignment (where the charges are formally presented and your rights are again read to you), bail hearings (where the court decides how much you have to pay to get out of jail while the case moves forward), motions to suppress evidence (where the court decides whether the police arrested you and gathered evidence against you in a reasonable way), and trial (where the judge or jury hears your case and decides your fate).
Here is an example of what to do during a DUI traffic stop: PLEASE DO NOT DRINK AND DRIVE! Even if your blood alcohol concentration is below 0.08%, you can be convicted or hurt someone.
If a fully uniformed law enforcement officer in a plainly marked police car puts on the lights and siren, you MUST pull over and stop.
When the officer comes to the window and asks you to roll down your window or to step out of the vehicle, you MUST do so.
If the officer asks you if you have been drinking, you DO NOT have to answer. Ask if you are free to leave. If he or she says no, then respectfully ask to speak to your attorney before any further questions. The officer MUST stop all questions at that point, but if he does not you should remain silent.
If the officer asks you to follow his finger or pen with your eyes, you DO NOT have to do so. Respectfully decline.
If the officer asks you to do any field sobriety tests, such as the one legged stand or finger counting, you DO NOT have to do so. These are designed for you to fail so DO NOT be fooled into thinking you can pass, even if you are not legally intoxicated. Respectfully decline.
If the officer tells you to breathe into a device at the scene of the stop (preliminary alcohol screen test), you DO NOT have to do so. Respectfully decline.
If you are still arrested and taken to the police station, you usually have the choice of providing a blood, breath or urine sample. You MUST choose one and you MUST provide the sample. WARNING: If you do not provide a sample, you could lose your driver's license for one year or more.
Exercise your rights and you should be in a good position to defend yourself against the charges either through negotiation, a motion to suppress or at trial
Do you know your rights? Do you understand your rights? If not, do not give them up.
Copyright 2014 CAMARENA LAW OFFICE, A Professional Corporation