If I Am Arrested, Do I Have to Answer Police Questions?

If you are arrested, the police must read you your Miranda rights if they want to: 1. Question you; and 2. Use your responses as evidence against you. Miranda rights are derived from the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, and allow you to remain silent if taken into police custody. The Miranda rights, as ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court in Miranda v. Arizona, should sound familiar if you’ve ever watched a TV crime drama. Your Miranda rights are as follows:

  • 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.

If a police officer fails to read the Miranda warning after arresting you, then nothing you say in response to police questioning can be used as evidence against you. Additionally, under the “fruit of the poisonous tree” rule, if police find any evidence as a result of the interrogation that violated the Miranda rule, that evidence will also be inadmissible in court. However, you should not take this to mean that you can escape punishment simply because you were not read your rights. Exceptions to this general rule do exist. In fact, some courts have ruled that remaining silent can be used against a person unless they specifically invoke their right to remain silent. (See the Salinas case below). Only an experienced criminal defense lawyer is qualified to properly analyze the facts in your case and assist in applying the applicable law.

What if I am being questioned by police, but have not been taken into custody?

If you are not in police custody and are still questioned by police, those responses can be used against you if you are later charged with a crime, even without having received a Miranda warning. However, it is important to understand the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the case of Salinas v. Texas if you are ever questioned by a police officer while not in custody.

Genovevo Salinas was not in police custody and was not read his Miranda rights when he answered questions regarding a double homicide. Although he voluntarily answered questions, he hesitated when police asked him if a ballistics test would prove shell casings at the crime scene would match his gun. He apparently fidgeted and looked nervous, but didn’t answer the question. The officer then moved on to other questions that Salinas did answer. Salinas was eventually charged with murder and prosecutors used his reaction to the question about the shell casings as evidence of his guilt.

Salinas appealed on the grounds that his silence was used against him and his case made it to the United States Supreme Court. On June 17, 2013, the Supreme Court found that Salinas “did not expressly invoke” his Fifth Amendment right in his response to the officer’s question about the shotgun.

It is important to ensure your rights are protected, whether you are in police custody or not. If you are uncomfortable with police questioning, you should politely and expressly decline to answer questions until you have been able to consult with an attorney. At Oberman & Rice, we believe “Your Future is Our Present Concern®.” We are committed to representing our clients with unparalleled attention and communication – 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.

Call a Knoxville criminal defense lawyer at (865) 249-7200 or fill out our online contact form.