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Know your rights when interacting with law enforcement - III

In a series of ongoing posts, we've been discussing how the U.S. Constitution provides every person with certain inalienable rights regardless of whether they are confronted by federal agents, state troopers or local police officers, and regardless of whether this confrontation takes place in their vehicle or at their front door.

In today's post, our final in this series, we'll discuss how these constitutional protections also extend to arrests, and how those who find themselves in police custody must understand that they are under no obligation to assist with any investigatory efforts. 

If you are placed under arrest

In the event law enforcement officials place you under arrest, it's important not to resist arrest, even if you know that you are being unfairly placed in handcuffs and steered toward the back of a squad car.

After this transpires, it's advisable to indicate as soon as possible -- perhaps while riding in the squad car and/or in any subsequent attempts at interrogation -- that you are exercising your right to remain silent and would like to speak with an attorney immediately.

What this means is that while the urge to provide explanations as to why you did nothing wrong might be strong, you must do your best to simply remain calm and quiet. In other words, abstain from talking to anyone, signing any documents or making any decisions without your attorney present.

In the event you have concerns about the costs of retaining an attorney, you needn't worry, as indigent defendants are guaranteed the right to counsel under the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Furthermore, you also have the right to make one local phone call -- free from law enforcement monitoring -- upon being taken into custody.

Lastly, if you believe that you've been victimized by any manner of police misconduct, remain collected, saying nothing and putting up no physical resistance.

Indeed, experts indicate that efforts should instead be focused on memorizing details from officer names and badge numbers to witness contact information and other salient details. Thereafter, a complaint can be filed with the law enforcement agency's internal affairs division or a claim pursued through the civil courts.

If you have been charged with a major state felony or federal offense, and believe that your constitutional rights have been violated, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional as soon as possible.

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Darryl A. Goldberg
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