Criminal Suspects Guide

What are my Miranda rights?


What happens when I am arrested?

You will usually be handcuffed, you may be read your Miranda rights, and you will be brought to a law enforcement facility for booking. You should remain respectful and quiet during these procedures. You should also keep a pleasant expression on your face because you may be photographed without warning for recordkeeping purposes. Police will also request your fingerprints. In some circumstances, police will require you to participate in a lineup, prepare a sample of your handwriting, speak certain phrases, wear certain clothing, or provide a hair sample. You should request an attorney for any of these procedures.

Whether or not anybody reads your Miranda rights, you should politely indicate that you will consult an attorney prior to speaking with authorities. You should not speak unless spoken to, and should only divulge your name, address, date of birth, citizenship, (legal) occupation, and other readily verifiable facts about which the government is already aware. You should not lie about your identity, this will only worsen your situation. The authorities will place you in a holding cell.

Absent extraordinary circumstances, you will visit a judge within a day or two. Depending on the court, you will then participate in an initial appearance, an arraignment, and/or a bond hearing. Absent unusual circumstances, you will usually plead not guilty and request conditions of release after conferring with your lawyer.

Police will carefully inventory any property you have when you are arrested. Some of these items may be “evidence,” particularly if you are carrying contraband. Do not comment on the composition of quantity of any item that you have, contraband or otherwise. If you have concerns, your lawyer will handle them. Police will return any lawful possessions that are not evidence when you are released from jail. You should check the inventory manifest against the items you receive to ensure that you have received everything you are entitled to.

What are my rights when I am arrested?

You have a right to know the crime or crimes with which you have been charged. The government will usually provide you with a copy of your information, summons, or indictment at your initial court appearance. Your attorney may “waive” the reading of the indictment. Your attorney is not relinquishing any valuable right, he is simply allowing the judge to dispense with reading all of the charges, which is usually a waste of time because you will review these with your attorney during a private meeting.

You should remember not to discuss too many details of your case in the courtroom because other defendants and lawyers, police, bailiffs, marshals, members of the public, court staff, and even the judge may overhear. Instead, you should ask your attorney for a private meeting at another time. Attorney Beltran always conducts private visits with new clients within one or two weeks of the beginning of a case.

You have the right to communicate by telephone with family, friends, or attorneys. You may need to obtain a calling card to call outside your facility. The police will complete their booking procedures before you are allowed to telephone anybody. UNLESS YOU ARE SPEAKING WITH YOUR ATTORNEY, YOU SHOULD ASSUME THAT ALL TELEPHONE CALLS ARE RECORDED. YOU SHOULD NOT DIVULGE DETAILS ABOUT YOUR CASE TO FAMILY OR FRIENDS BECAUSE THIS COULD SEVERELY HARM YOUR CASE.

How can I get out of jail?

Your attorney will have to make an appropriate oral or written motion with the judge. If you are accused of a minor crime, you may be released on a simple promise to return to court when directed. If your charges are more serious, you will be required to post cash or other collateral to ensure your appearance. If you flee, you will forfeit the collateral. Your attorney will work with your family to identify suitable collateral. Ultimately, your eligibility for release will depend on whether you are likely to reappear for hearings and trial and whether you are a threat to others while you are on release. Stable employment and family relationships, a limited criminal history, and a record of cooperation with law enforcement will weigh in your favor. A serious or lengthy criminal history, strong evidence of your guilt, and previous attempts to flee, provision of false information to law enforcement or failures to appear will weigh against you. Generally, if you are accused of a felony involving violence or drugs, you will be held pending trial.

What are my rights when the police question me?

YOU CAN AND SHOULD REMAIN SILENT. Contrary to whatever they may claim, the police are not seeking to “help you clear your name.” The police are interested in one thing only: to obtain facts that will ensure your conviction! Even if you are innocent, the police will seize upon minor discrepancies in your remarks to show that you are guilty. You should never speak to the authorities unless and until you have conferred with counsel, you have a written agreement protecting your remarks, and your attorney has explained the purpose of the meeting to your satisfaction. Remember that you are almost always entitled to an attorney if you cannot afford one.

If you do choose to speak, you have the right to stop speaking at any time. Frequently, the police will question you, obtain incriminating statements, purport to “Mirandize” you, and then ask you to repeat your remarks. If the police ask you to make a statement after you have already told your story, YOU ARE IN BIG TROUBLE AND SHOULD STOP SPEAKING IMMEDIATELY AND DEMAND A LAWYER! UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCE SHOULD YOU SIGN ANY PAPER BEFORE SPEAKING TO AN ATTORNEY!

What if I cannot afford a lawyer?

If you are charged with a crime, you are almost always entitled to an attorney. Courts will sometimes entertain requests to appoint specific attorneys if those attorneys are willing to accept the court appointment. If you cannot afford a retained attorney but are indigent and want a judge to appoint Attorney Beltran to represent you, you should specifically so state when you initially contact Attorney Beltran. Attorney Beltran can file a motion for appointment to appear on your behalf. Unfortunately Attorney Beltran cannot accept criminal cases on a pro bono basis because public defenders, conflict counsel, and panel counsel are available for that purpose. Remember that the court may ask you to sign an “oath of indigency” asserting that you are unable to afford an attorney. This form is completed under penalty of perjury and you should ensure that this form is accurate. Lies or omissions on this form may worsen your situation.

Am I free to go?

If you are speaking with the police and feel uneasy, you should ask the police if you are free to leave. Their intentions will quickly become apparent if you ask this question. In some instances, such as when you are stopped while driving, you will not be free to leave until you have provided your documentation and the police have issued any ticket or warning. You may be required to sign the ticket in order to leave. Check the ticket to ensure that you are simply acknowledging that you received the ticket, not that you are guilty, and that you agree to either appear in court or pay the ticket. (This is the one exception to the rule above stating that you should not sign anything without a lawyer.) This does not necessarily mean that you are under arrest.

Even if you are not arrested, you are not required to answer questions, except to verify your identity and whether you are armed. The officer may “pat you down” to verify that you have no weapons. The officer should not, however, “feel you up.” Officers frequently do this in order to search for drugs (or gratify other curiosities), but this is improper and you should make a note of it and politely ask them to stop. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCE SHOULD YOU STRUGGLE WITH THE POLICE, EVEN IF YOU FEEL THEY ARE DOING SOMETHING WRONG. Unless the officer has probable cause to arrest you, he may not demand or require that you accompany him elsewhere. Unless the officer tells you that you are under arrest, you should not accompany him anywhere without consulting a lawyer.

What is a warrant?

There are two types of warrants, arrest warrants and search warrants. Both types of warrants are issued by a court upon showing of “probable cause.” In most courts, it is very easy to show probable cause and the issuance of a warrant does not mean that anybody is guilty of anything.

What is an arrest warrant?

An arrest warrant is issued by the court once the government has shown probable cause that you committed a crime. The arrest warrant allows the police to look for you and apprehend you.

What is a search warrant?

Search warrants are issued by a court and allow the police to search persons, places, houses, and items. The search warrant must “particularly describ[e] the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Do the police need a warrant to search my car?

For obvious reasons, cars are provided less protection than homes. You still have certain rights. For example the police may not force you to open your trunk during a routine stop. You should consult with an experienced lawyer such as Attorney Beltran to ascertain whether a police search of your vehicle was proper.

What about my boat or plane?

Boats and planes are generally entitled to even less protection than land vehicles. You should consult an experienced lawyer such as Attorney Beltran.

The police did not have a warrant. What happens?

It depends, law enforcement may arrest or search you without a warrant in a variety of circumstances. You will need to contact an experienced lawyer such as Attorney Beltran to ascertain your situation. Some examples of proper warrantless searches include:

1) When the officer knows that a warrant for your arrest has been issued but he lacks a copy.

2) When the arresting officer has good reason to believe that a felony has been or is being committed and that you are the person who has committed or is committing the felony.

3) When a misdemeanor is committed in the presence of the officer.

4) Under Florida law, there are a few specified misdemeanors for which an arrest may be made without a warrant, even when not committed in the presence of the arresting officer.

Can an officer use force when arresting me?

Law enforcement may use reasonable force to apprehend and subdue a suspect. If law enforcement obtained a valid warrant or shows one of the exceptions above, you cannot claim later that the arrest was unlawful merely because you were acquitted. The legality of the arrest has nothing to do with whether or not you are ultimately convicted.

Should I ever resist arrest?

Absolutely not. If you have doubt whether an individual purporting to act under color of law is actually so authorized, you may ask to see both a badge and identification. Remember, however, that if the officer was ambivalent about what do to (e.g. whether to issue a speeding ticket) you will likely seal your fate if you give him a hard time. You should therefore always cooperate with a lawful arrest. Failure to do so could lead to injury, additional charges, or death.

The same analysis applies to fleeing law enforcement. Police chases invariably end with an injured suspect face down on a rough surface with several burly law enforcement officers applying their full body weight to his body. The police may chase you down, even for a minor infraction. Although all suspects have rights, the police may use reasonable force to effect an arrest. Even if you are unarmed, you could be tazered, bitten by a dog, or shot due to a misunderstanding. It is truly in your best interest to comply with the police and consult with a lawyer regarding any real or perceived improper police practices.

Resisting arrest or obstructing an officer with violence is a felony under Florida law. Resisting arrest or obstructing or interfering with an officer without violence (for example running away) is a misdemeanor. If you resist arrest or flee, you can be charged, convicted, sentenced, and imprisoned even if you are acquitted of the crime for which you were arrested. The penalties for defying law enforcement can be as severe as those for a “real” crime.

Unfortunately, Attorney Beltran frequently represents clients whose previous defiance of law enforcement, often years or decades earlier, is used against them when they are seeking release for new, usually unrelated charges, many years later. If your rights are violated, remember exactly what the police officer did and advise your attorney at your first meeting. You are much better off being unlawfully (but safely) arrested and seeking relief in court than you are in physically resisting arrest and aggravating an already bad situation.

What does it mean when I am arrested?

A suspect is not guilty just because they were arrested. In fact, the United States Constitution and the common law provide the opposite. You are innocent until proven guilty. You are entitled to an attorney as well as a trial and various other procedures and accommodations to ensure a fair proceeding.

Should I ever resist a search?

The law of search and seizure is complex and changing. The validity of a search will depend on the facts and circumstances in a particular case. A suspect is almost certainly incapable of ascertaining the validity of an ongoing search as it is conducted. For these reasons, you should not resist a search. You should, however, ask for a copy of any warrant, review it for accuracy, and state in a clear, firm, and polite voice that you are not consenting to anything.

What does a search entail?

Under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, a warrant must “particularly describ[e] the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” This means, for example, that police looking for a getaway vehicle used in a robbery may search your garage, but not your bedroom.

If you are arrested in a home or office, law enforcement may search the immediate area of the dwelling for weapons and may search the rest of the building for hidden accomplices. If the officers discover contraband or evidence in plain view, they may seize these items as well.

Police may also impound and inspect your vehicle if you are arrested during a traffic stop and nobody is available to drive your vehicle home. You should tell the officer if a friend or relative is immediately available to retrieve the vehicle.

I heard that the government violates the Constitution all the time. Why should I trust my lawyer or the court system?

You are fortunate to live in a country that provides the most rigorous procedural protections (civil and criminal) to suspects of any civilization in history. Although the government, like all persons and institutions, makes many mistakes, they are frequently remedied in a court of law. The vast majority of police, prosecutors, judges, etc. are decent people who play by the rules. Frequently, a suspect’s indignation at a particular practice can be assuaged by an explanation of the relevant facts and applicable law during a confidential attorney-client conference with Attorney Beltran. When the government has overstepped, Attorney Beltran will bring this to the Judge’s attention and vigorously fight for your rights. Clients should remain patient because litigation often moves slowly.

This is a general guide and does not constitute legal advice. You may not rely on the information in this guide without hiring Attorney Beltran to confirm that this information is applicable to your case. Although every effort is made to ensure that this information is accurate and up to date, it is still necessary to consult an attorney to ensure that the remarks in this guide are applicable to your case. Unless you have paid my fee and received a representation agreement signed by both of us, I do not represent you. You are not my client, and I am not your attorney, just because you read this guide.