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Arrest and Interrogations
Being placed under arrest can be a real cause for stress. Maybe you have done something you should not have, maybe you were in the wrong place at the wrong time, or perhaps you are being questioned and you have done nothing wrong. Either way, you need to protect your rights. There are certain procedures that Oklahoma police must follow if you are arrested and questioned and giving up those rights can lead to a conviction of a crime. If you have been arrested it is because the police either believe you committed a crime or have knowledge of a crime and their goal is to get you to give them information that will support their case against you. Protect yourself if you have been arrested by contacting an Oklahoma attorney to guide you. An experienced Oklahoma criminal defense attorney knows what to do to protect you and your future.
An arrest occurs when a police officer utters the words "you're under arrest," or when a police officer significantly restrains your freedom of motion. The restraint must be more than a mere detention on the street. Although in most situations the police will take you to the police station for booking (photographs and fingerprinting), it is also possible for an officer to arrest and book you at the crime scene, and then release you when you give a written promise to appear in court at a later time. After the police arrest you, they will often question you in order to find out more about the crime, your role in it and whether there may be other suspects. There are several Constitutional protections that you may invoke during police interrogations.
Can a person charged with a crime be forced to give bodily samples?
Yes. You might think that being forced to give bodily samples-such as blood, hair or fingernail clippings-is a violation of the U.S. Constitution's protection against self- incrimination, found in the Fifth Amendment. But the U.S. Supreme Court thinks otherwise. It has ruled that the Fifth Amendment protects communications only, and that bodily samples are physical evidence and therefore not covered by the Constitution.
If the police make an illegal arrest, is the arrested person set free?
No. But if a search of the person or her immediate surroundings is conducted during the arrest and turns up incriminating evidence, the evidence may be kept out of the person's trial by their defense attorney on the grounds that it is "fruit of the poisonous tree"-that is, the evidence was found as the result of an improper arrest. Also, if the illegally arrested person makes any statements to the police after being arrested, the statements may not be used as evidence. This is true whether or not the arrested person was "read their rights."
If I'm arrested, do the police have to "read me my rights?"
No. However, if they don't read you your rights, they can't use anything you say as evidence against you at trial. What are these rights? Popularly known as the Miranda warning (ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court in Miranda v. Arizona), your rights consist of the familiar litany invoked by T.V. police immediately upon arresting a suspect:
- You have the right to remain silent.
- If you do say anything, what you say can be used against you in a court of law.
- You have the right to consult with a lawyer and have that lawyer present during any questioning.
- If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be appointed for you if you so desire.
- If you choose to talk to the police officer, you have the right to stop the interview at any time. (This part of the warning is usually omitted from the screenplay.)
It doesn't matter whether an interrogation occurs in a jail or at the scene of a crime, on a busy downtown street or in the middle of an open field: If you are in custody (deprived of your freedom of action in any significant way), the police must give a Miranda warning if they want to question you and use your answers as evidence at trial. If you are not in police custody, however, no Miranda warning is required. This exception most often comes up when the police stop someone on the street to question them about a recent crime and the person blurts out a confession before the police have an opportunity to deliver the warning.
Will a judge dismiss my case if I was questioned without a Miranda warning?
No. Many people mistakenly believe that a case will be thrown out of court if the police fail to give Miranda warnings to the arrested person. What Miranda actually says is that a warning is necessary if the police interrogate a suspect and want to use any of her responses as evidence. If the police fail to give you a Miranda warning, nothing you say in response to the questioning can be used as evidence to convict you. In addition, under the "fruit of the poisonous tree" rule, if the police find evidence as a result of an interrogation that violates the Miranda rule, that evidence is also inadmissible at trial. For example, if you tell the police where a weapon is hidden and it turns out that you gave this information in response to improper questioning, the police will not be able to use the weapon as evidence unless the police can prove that they would have found the weapon without your statements.
What's the best way to assert my right to remain silent if I am being questioned by the police?
If you're taken into custody by the police, you don't have to use any magic words to let police officers know that you want to remain silent. You can simply say nothing in response to police questions. Or, after an officer gives you a Miranda warning, you can stop the questioning by saying something like:
- I want to talk to an attorney.
- I won't say anything until I talk to an attorney.
- I don't have anything to say.
- I don't want to talk to you anymore.
- I claim my Miranda rights.
If the police continue to question you after you have asserted your right to remain silent, they have violated Miranda. As a result, anything you say after that point -- and any evidence gleaned from that conversation-will not be admissible at your trial.
How heavy handed can the police get when asking questions?
Information that you voluntarily disclose to a police officer (after you have been properly warned) is generally admissible at trial. The key word is "voluntary." Police officers are not allowed to use physical force or psychological coercion to get you to talk to them. The days of the rubber hose, protracted grilling under bright lights and severe sleep deprivation are pretty much over. If police officers obtain information through any of these illegal means, the information cannot be used by the prosecutor at trial. In addition, under the rule known as "the fruit of the poisonous tree," any evidence that the police obtain as the result of a coerced statement is equally inadmissible.