Legal Trouble? Know Your Rights Before an Arrest


Getting arrested is not something you likely want to think about. However, it does happen, and being prepared can make all the difference in how well you make out. You might see arrests on your favorite TV shows, but it isn’t always like the movies.

Knowing the laws that are in place to protect you after getting handcuffed can save you a lot of hassle when it comes time to appear in court. Here are some tips to follow after your arrest to ensure the best possible outcome.

When an Arrest Officially Happens

You’re officially under arrest when you’re no longer allowed to freely walk away from an officer, not necessarily the moment you are cuffed. They will read you what are known as Miranda Rights and put you into custody. Miranda Rights, originally sparking from a case outcome in 1966, are rights that an arresting officer must read to you when you’re getting arrested. You’ve likely heard an abbreviated version in movies and TV. The full speech is a little bit longer.

These rights are to inform you of what you can legally do or not do under the Constitution. The idea is that these rights assist you in protecting yourself from self-incrimination, so be careful about what you say. Generally, you want to avoid confessing to any crimes or making statements of apology.

Not all arrests are lawful or warranted. Like any people working in any profession, police officers are bound to make mistakes. Stay calm and know your rights. Cooperating is likely to help your case, especially in states where a phone call after an arrest is not a guarantee.

You Don’t Have to Answer Questions

The first of your Miranda Rights states that you have the right to refuse to answer any questions asked by the police. Unlike what many people may think, they don’t actually have to say anything to the police. Most will choose to hire a criminal defense attorney to be present during the questioning process to ensure that they don’t say anything that could later be used against them in a court of law.

A lawyer can help understand the charges being made against you, what the court process will look like for you if there is one, help you obtain a bail bond and even negotiate a fail bail. If your first phone call is to a family member, ask them to contact a lawyer for you. A public defender will be assigned your case otherwise, and will not have the same amount of time to dedicate to you.

You Do Have to Provide Certain Information

While you are not obligated to answer questions, some states have “stop and identify” statutes that require you to provide your name and address. There must first be reasonable suspicion that the suspect has committed a crime or is about to commit a crime. Make sure to look up your state laws if you want to know for sure if you are required to give this information.

Additionally, you are required by law to provide your insurance information, vehicle registration, and driver’s license when you are pulled over. You may be arrested if you refuse. If they ask questions such as, “Do you know why I pulled you over?” you do not need to answer. In some cases, responding with, “No,” or remaining silent could stop you from incriminating yourself if you were not violating any laws.

Recognize Entrapment

It is used as a plot device on TV all the time, but in reality, entrapment is not all that common. If an informant or an officer asks you to commit a crime, and you do it, that on its own isn’t entrapment. For example, if they send an underage informant to ask you to buy beer or cigarettes and you do, the blame is all on you.

Entrapment involves going out of their way to convince you to commit a crime. Say you refuse to buy beer for the informant, but they go on pleading and tell you they will get in trouble if they don’t get it. Eventually you give in. That would be considered entrapment, because you had no intention of committing the crime. However, you may want to note that this only applies if they are part of the police or working for them directly. If the situation happened with a random person on the street, it would still be considered a crime.

Officers Can Search You and Your Immediate Surroundings

When an officer reads out your rights and puts you into custody, they have the right to search you. This is done to look for any weapons, contraband, or evidence of a possible crime that was committed. With regards to your immediate surroundings, the cops may search your purse, wallet, or a vehicle that you were pulled over in.

Upon searching your items, the police can take and secure your property. It is good advice to be patient with their search and don’t interfere in the case that they add charges for obstruction.

You Have the Right to a Speedy Trial

The police are not allowed to hold you indefinitely without charging you of a crime. In most states, the prosecutor for the police must charge you within 72 hours. In some states, this timeframe is only 48 hours.

It’s important to note that while the prosecutor may charge you with a specific crime initially, they can change those charges as they obtain more evidence in the future. If it takes longer than is reasonable for a trial date, your defense attorney may be able to get the case dropped. However, if an investigation is ongoing, this does not apply.


Understanding your legal rights is the cornerstone of the American Constitution. While the legal system is set up so that you can understand those rights, it can sometimes be difficult to fully comprehend them. If you’re not certain about your rights, it’s always a good idea to contact a lawyer to assist you.