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Do I Have to Wait For the Police to Read Me My Rights Before Asking For a Lawyer?

We’ve seen it all on the cop shows: that moment when a police officer or detective cuffs a suspect and “reads them their rights.” Even if you’ve never stepped foot in a courtroom or police station, you know these rights include the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. If you’re thinking it seems a little late for the person to get the assistance of their attorney when they are already in handcuffs and under arrest, you are onto something (although anytime a suspect finally obtains an attorney is a good thing for that person’s interests).

It is indeed a mistake to think that you have to wait for the police to read you your rights before speaking to an attorney, and the best thing you can do to defend your interests and freedom is to request an attorney at the very start of an unwanted conversation with law enforcement.

What Your Miranda Rights Really Mean

“Reading you your rights” refers to your Miranda rights, named after the Supreme Court case in which those rights were explained. Basically, back in the 1960s, the Supreme Court recognized that, while every person has a right against self-incrimination (meaning being forced to tell the police damaging information during an interview or interrogation), it is unfair to let police interrogate suspects in custody without the police informing them of their rights (namely the right to remain silent and to have an attorney).  

What the court ruled was that, if a person is in custodial interrogation by the police, then the police cannot use statements given by the person in prosecuting them unless they were read their rights. Custodial interrogation is a flexible concept, but basically it means that you as the potential suspect did not feel like you had the ability to end the conversation and that you were being detained.

You Have a Right to an Attorney at Any Point, Regardless of Whether You are In Custody

Although the police do have to read you your rights once they put you in custody and interrogate you (which can take place anywhere, even your own home), the fact is that you have a right to an attorney at any time that you are speaking with law enforcement. The only difference is that the police do not have to inform you of this right, and, in most cases, they won’t as your having an attorney will likely make it more difficult for them to get the information you need.

Under other Supreme Court precedent, you have the right to tell police, investigators, or other law enforcement individuals at any point that you would like all questioning to cease until you have a lawyer. You should make this statement very clearly and unequivocally. If they fail to stop questioning you, they will be in violation of your constitutional rights. It may be the case that they decide to arrest you anyway, but, if this means you do not give them incriminating information which leads to your criminal conviction, this may be the best possible outcome.

Experienced Defense in Your Oklahoma Criminal Investigation

Oklahoma City criminal defense attorney Patrick Quillian is a former Oklahoma district attorney who relies on his years of experience in prosecuting cases to provide the best possible defense for all defendants. If you are currently or believe you may soon be facing a criminal investigation, contact the office of J. Patrick Quillian, Attorney at Law, today at 405.294.4448 to schedule a free consultation to see what his criminal defense team can do for you.