The police did not read me my rights, so they have to dismiss my case - right?
I often have people call me to talk about their case. At the end of the conversation they happen to mention that they were never read their rights, and they want to know what effect that has on their case.
As a lawyer, my answer is always, “it depends.” A police officer has to read you your rights when he or she wants to question you, while you are in custody (there are various situations in which you can be considered “in custody,” even if you have not been arrested. We’ll cover those in a future blog post!). So, if you were never questioned by police or were only questioned while outside of custody, then it does not matter that you were never read your rights. However, if the police question you while in custody and do not read you your rights beforehand, your statements cannot be used against you at trial.
This can be crucial because many criminal cases can be based solely on statements given by the defendant, while in police custody. So, when a cop tells you that you have the right to remain silent and the right to have an attorney present during any questioning, it is critical that you clearly ask to have an attorney present. You should not ask the officer if it is a good idea to get a lawyer or say you “would prefer” an attorney to be present. Instead, you need to clearly say “I want to have an attorney present and I wish to remain silent until I speak with an attorney.” After that, you should answer no further questions about the alleged incident without your attorney in the room.
If you’ve been arrested or charged with a crime, your first step should be to remain silent. Your second step should be to call an experienced criminal defense attorney. I would be pleased to take your call. You can reach me at 859-242-3487 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.