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Under what circumstances can I be detained by a police officer?

Police Questioning

Jeffrey K. Rubenstein (Criminal Defense Attorney) gives expert video advice on: Under what circumstances can I be detained by a police officer?; Do I have to identify myself to the police?; What if I can't afford an attorney? and more...

Under what circumstances can I be detained by a police officer?

A detention is a legal term that is something less than an arrest. A police officer can detain you to conduct an investigation to see whether further criminal activity is afoot.

How long can I be detained without being arrested?

A police officer has the right to detain you long enough to see whether probable cause exists to arrest you.

Do I have to identify myself to the police?

You are not legally obliged to identify yourself to the police. However, truthfully, on the street, if you fail to identify yourself to a police officer who asks, you are probably going to be detained. The police officer will probably say in the report that it wasn't because you refused to identify yourself but because the actions of you not identifying yourself caused them to be suspicious for some other reason.

What are "Miranda Rights"?

Miranda is a case that was decided by the Supreme Court of the United States which provides a two tired cast. When somebody is in custody and being interrogated. Both of those things have to be in play. It has to be interrogation and custody then the "Miranda Rights" apply.

Do I really have the "right to remain silent"?

You absolutely have the right to remain silent. You have the right to not say anything. That is a Fifth Amendment right which is very different from your Miranda rights. You always have the right to remain silent and my advice to you is that when the police try to question you about anything just say, “No.” Don't assume you can talk your way out of it.

Can anything I say be used against me in court?

Absolutely anything that you say can be used against you in court. Many time the police will just ask what you consider to be a non-harmful question. Like, "Were you home on Thursday?", Which puts you in the city. If they have an admission and you say yes, it puts you in the city. "Where do you live?", "I live on Main Street in Santa Monica," they put you in the county. Otherwise if they were charging you with a crime they might have to prove that you were even in the state.

What are my "rights to an attorney"?

Your rights to an attorney are when you have been arrested and charged with a crime that subjects you to possible incarceration, you are entitled to an attorney, whether you can afford one or not. You can either hire a private attorney, if you can afford one, or the state will provide you a public defender at no cost to you. This is from the landmark Supreme Court case of Gideon versus Wainwright that determined even an indigent, or poor defendant, is entitled to representation by an attorney, whether they can afford one or not.

What if I can't afford an attorney?

If you can't afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you free of charge by the court. A public defender will be appointed. It is one of the great legal myths that public defenders are not good attorneys. They are good attorneys. As a matter of fact, some of the best attorneys are public defenders. They are, what we in the trade call, true believers. They really believe in what they're doing and they don't do it for the money. The difficulty is that sometimes they are very, very overworked. They have a lot more cases than a private lawyer does.

Can I be arrested for refusing to respond to a police officer?

Legally, you cannot be arrested for refusing to respond to a police officer, but it depends on the circumstances. Why is the police officer handling you? If it's because they believe you've committed a crime, then you can be arrested. If not, then technically you can't. However, as we all know in the real world, if you don't respond to a police officer who is telling you to, "Stop," or "Come here," in all likelihood you're going to end up in the bracelets.