Most of us go through life with little to no real knowledge of the legal system, law, and how it all works. There are times when just the basics come in handy, and when knowing a few key legal facts can be the difference between jail and freedom. It is likely that you or someone close to you will have an encounter with the law. The way in which you react to the situation is much of what will determine the outcome.
Everything in law, and the Justice System has a process. There is a protocol in which everyone involved is expected to follow. From the police officers who make the arrest, to the people working at the police station or jail, the judge, lawyers, even those employed as clerks or secretaries are held to a high standard of behavior and are expected to follow the same rules all the time.
We’ve all seen those shows on television, and are most likely aware of the Miranda rights. Not only is this just a “speech” that the police must use, they are your actual rights as an American when taken into police custody. You must be allowed to remain silent, be told that anything you do say can be used against you, have an attorney present during any questioning, must be provided with an attorney free of charge if you cannot afford one, be treated fairly and humanely, have a speedy trial, and you absolutely should be protected against cruel and unusual punishment. The overuse of the reading of these rights has almost taken the impact out of them, but they are an established set of rights developed in order to protect those who have not yet been committed of a crime.
Q: Where do I find a lawyer when I get arrested?
A: You will have the right to contact the attorney of your choosing. Although the courts will provide you with one, you do not necessarily have to use the one they have on hand.
Q: What if I can’t afford a lawyer?
A: If you cannot afford a lawyer, you will be provided with one. These are called Public Defenders. They work specifically with those who are being charged with a crime, and need legal representation.
Q: Is a Public Defender the same as an attorney or lawyer?
A: Yes, a Public Defender is a licensed attorney who has chosen to work specifically with those being charged with a crime.
Q: I wasn’t read my rights. Does that mean I wasn’t technically arrested?
A: While there are times that charges are dismissed due to suppression of evidence after not reading the Miranda Rights, this is not always true. Charges are not automatically dropped, but certain evidence obtained before reading the Miranda warnings may be suppressed. In cases where this evidence exclusion leaves prosecutors with no useful evidence, then charges may be dismissed.