Police officers are trained to question civilians in a way that could connect them in an implicating matter to a crime. Although it’s best to be cooperative with the police, it’s important to know your rights and understand when you are free to leave. As a criminal defense lawyer in Tampa, we are here to educate you on your legal rights during police questioning.
In this three-part article, we will first discuss your basic rights pertaining to police questioning. In the second section, we will discuss requirements the police need to detain you. In the final section, we will discuss some tactics the police use in questioning. If you have been charged with a crime you did not commit, please speak with a criminal defense attorney in Tampa.
If a police officer stops you for questioning this does not necessarily mean you are a suspect in a criminal investigation. The police have certain authority to help them do their job; however, there are varying rights for civilians when questioned by a police officer. These rights depend on several circumstances. Voluntary encounters or “friendly talks” are when the police officer is questioning a citizen, but the conversation can be ceased at any time and the officer has no right to search the person. “Terry stops” or investigative detentions are an intermediate status where the person cannot immediately leave the area and can be patted down by the officer. Lastly, arrests are when the questioned person can be searched, forced to show identification, handcuffed, and taken to jail.
Sometimes what is actually a voluntary encounter may feel restrictive. To be safe, you can always ask an officer if you are free to leave. If the officer doesn’t allow you to leave, in a legal context, you have been detained for a Terry stop and may be a suspect in a crime. In some circumstances, you may want to invoke your “right to silence.” This exhibits that you have no obligation to answer any of the officer’s questions and may desire the counsel of a lawyer. It’s important to never lie to a police officer as this is considered “obstruction” and can result in serious charges brought against you.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.