What to Know If You Are Arrested


When you are detained or arrested by law enforcement officers, it’s critical that you know your rights. Even though police officers should read you your Miranda rights when taking you into custody, you want to know ahead of time what is happening and what your rights are.

What is an Arrest?

There’s a difference between being arrested and being detained. A police officer may detain you—keep you from leaving the scene for a short period of time—for questioning. However, the officer must notify you if you are placed under arrest. Until such point, you are free to leave the scene. It’s best to simply ask the police officer, “Am I under arrest?” If the officer says no, you are free to leave. Once you are placed under arrest, though, you are in the legal custody of the officer and cannot leave the scene.

What Are Your Rights When Arrested?

Your constitutional rights, set forth in the Miranda opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court, are as follows:

  • You have the right to remain silent
  • You have the right to have a lawyer present anytime you are questioned
  • You have the right to have a lawyer appointed for you, if you cannot afford one

You cannot be questioned until you have been given your Miranda rights. Even then, you cannot be questioned without a lawyer present unless you voluntarily give up your rights. If you change your mind in the middle of an interrogation, the questioning must stop until your lawyer is present.