Know Your Rights

If you’re like most people,  you go through life without any concern for being arrested.  And why should you? You’re a law-abiding citizen, not a criminal.  You pay your taxes, have a steady job, maybe you’re raising a family.  The last thing on your mind is getting arrested.

The unfortunate fact is that many people who have done little more than driving a few miles over the speed limit get detained or arrested every year in this country.  In China, facial recognition software has recently been used to scan concert-goers to look for known criminals, and while the use of such software in the U.S. is being fiercely fought by the ACLU, many in law enforcement believe it could be an essential tool for locating fugitives.  Imagine you return to your car after enjoying your favorite band in concert, only to be surrounded by police who mistook you for a criminal using facial recognition software.

Paranoid?  Maybe. But with more and more cameras going up in cities and towns every day, even in towns like New Port Richey, the risk to civil liberties is greater, and so is the need to be well-informed of your rights in case you ever find yourself under arrest.  

Pulled Over While Driving

Right:  The police must have probable cause to pull you over.  This could be a minor traffic infraction like speeding or having a tail light out, the fact that your car fits the description of one belonging to a criminal, or they have reason to believe that you were committing a crime.  The exception to this is DUI checkpoints in which cars are randomly checked for drunk drivers.

Right:  The police cannot use evidence obtained illegally against you.  If the police did not have probable cause to stop you and they found something illegal, you could not be prosecuted for it.

Right:  You don’t have to pull over until it is safe to do so.  If you’re not stopping right away, you should indicate with hand signals that you’re pulling over where it’s safe.  As soon as it is safe, pull over. The longer it takes, the greater the odds that the officer will think you’re evading capture.

Right:  You have the right to film your traffic stop.  As long as you’re in a public place, you have the right to take a video of the police executing your traffic stop.  This is true for filming other people who’ve been stopped by the police. If they tell you that you have to stop filming them, you do not.  However, if they ask you to put it down, you need to oblige but you don’t have to stop the recording. You can film as long as you don’t interfere with their job and holding the camera in front of your face while they’re questioning you will be considered interfering with their job.  They cannot delete your photos or videos, nor can they confiscate them.

Right:  You have the right to refuse to take a breathalyzer test.   However, doing so in many states is an automatic 6-month suspension of your license because when you get your driver’s license there is “implied consent” agreeing to a breathalyzer if asked by law enforcement.  

Right:  You have the right to refuse a search of your vehicle.  If an officer asks if you consent to a search, you can refuse and it cannot be held against you in court or be used as a reason to do the search.  If the officer has “probable cause” to believe that there is something illegal in the vehicle, something illegal is visible from the exterior, or that an illegal activity occurred in it, they don’t need your permission or a warrant to perform the search.  If the search was performed without your consent and they cannot prove that they did have probable cause to look in your vehicle, any evidence they find in it will be admissible in court.


Right:  You have the right to remain silent.  If television crime dramas have taught us anything, it’s that we all have the right to remain silent if we’ve been arrested.  It’s natural to want to explain yourself or proclaim your innocence but during a confusing or heated time, you could easily say something that sounds incriminating.  Resist the urge to talk to them and ask for a lawyer.

Right:  You have the right to an attorney.  It’s not guilty people who “lawyer up”, it’s smart people.  The police want to solve the crime. Your lawyer wants to help you.

Right:  If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.  Someone will interview you or give you a written questionnaire to determine whether or not you qualify for a public defender to be appointed to you and paid for by the state.  Do not lie about your financial situation to get a free lawyer. It is against the law to do so and could get you into more trouble.

Right:  You have the right to a phone call.  You have the right to make one phone call within a reasonable amount of time after your arrest.  Call a lawyer or a loved one who can get a lawyer for you. If you make the call to your lawyer, the police cannot monitor the phone call but if you call anyone else, they can.  

Right:  You have the right to be seen by a judge within 48 hours.     You must be brought before the judge for arraignment within 48 hours of your arrest.

You may be able to be released on bail before your arraignment, depending on the crime.  As soon as you’ve been arrested in New Port Richey or the surrounding area, you can begin arrangements for your release with a bail bondsman.  If your one phone call was to a loved one, in addition to a lawyer, have them call Mercy Bail Bonds to begin working on your case right away.  Mercy’s discreet professional team will work to get you out of jail and back home as soon as possible. Call them today at (727) 856-7775.

Knowing your rights is your responsibility and may be the best way out of a difficult situation.  Take the time to learn them before you really need them.