Important issue: understanding the basis for a stop or arrest

Last time, we left off speaking about the importance of understanding when an arrest has taken place in the criminal process. To some, it may be obvious when an arrest has occurred and when one has not, but for those who don’t know the law, it may not be so obvious, especially when officers are acting illegally. Law abiding citizens who are uneducated on the matter can easily assume that officers are in the right and that they should offer up information to be helpful whenever officers approach for questioning.

The reality is that you never have to offer up information to investigating officers, whether you have been arrested, detained for a stop-and-frisk, or simply approached at random. No matter how nice and polite officers are, you have the right to remain silent to their questioning. If an arrest has occurred, it is also important to consult with an experienced attorney to ensure officers don’t take advantage of you during the investigation process. 

One of the ways suspects can protect themselves during an investigation is to make sure they always have a clear understanding of what basis officers have for arresting or detaining. If all officers can say is that they are generally investigating a crime, you know that you have not been arrested or detained, and that you are technically free to go. If officers are able to articulate a “reasonable suspicion” that you are about to commit a crime, they do have the right to stop, question and conduct a frisk. When an arrest takes place, officers must be able to provide “probable cause” to believe that you committed a crime. Officers are supposed to read you your rights upon arrest, but this sometimes doesn’t happen.

Regardless of what is going on in the investigation, suspects should always seek to understand what officers are up to and the legal grounds on which they stand at any given point and in any given action or request. Suspects should also understand their right to be silent and consult an experienced attorney for guidance. Officer actions can be scrutinized in the criminal defense process, and sometimes in civil rights litigation, so paying attention to details is important. 

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