Know Your Legal Rights
What To Do If You're Arrested...
I am told that I am under arrest. What does that mean? When you are arrested, you are taken into custody.
This means that you are not free to leave the scene. Without being arrested, you can be detained, however,
or held for questioning for a short time if a police officer or other person believes you may be involved
in a crime. For example, an officer may detain you if you are carrying a large box near a burglary site.
You can also be detained by storekeepers if they suspect you have stolen something. Whether you are arrested
or detained, you do not have to answer any questions except to give your name and address and show some
identification if requested.
1. What Rights Do I Have?
Whether you are an adult citizen or non-citizen, you have certain rights if you are arrested.
Before the law enforcement officer questions you, he or she should tell you that:
“You have the right to remain silent.
Anything you say may be used against you.
You have a right to have a lawyer present while you are questioned.
If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be appointed for you.”
These are your "Miranda" rights, guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. If you are not given these warnings,
your lawyer can ask that any statements you made to the police not be used against you in court in a felony case. But this does
not necessarily mean that your case will be dismissed. This does not apply if you volunteer information without
being questioned by the police or if the charge is only a misdemeanor.
2. Once I'm told My Rights, Can I Be Questioned?
You can be questioned, without a lawyer present, only if you voluntarily give up your rights and if you
understand what you are giving up. If you agree to the questioning, then change your mind, questioning
must stop as soon as you say that you want a lawyer. If the questioning continues after you request a
lawyer and you continue to talk, your answers can be used against you if you testify to something different.
You may be required to give certain physical evidence. For example, if you are suspected of driving under
the influence of alcohol you may be requested to take a test to measure the amount of alcohol in your system.
If you refuse to take the test, your driver's license will be suspended and the refusal will be used against you in court.
Once you are booked, meaning your arrest is written into official police records and you are fingerprinted
and photographed, you have a right to make and complete three telephone calls that are free within the local dialing area.
3. When Should I See A Lawyer?
If you are arrested for a crime, particularly a serious one, you should contact a lawyer as soon as possible.
He or she has a better sense of what you should and should not say to law enforcement officers to avoid being
misinterpreted or misunderstood. The lawyer also can advise you or your family or friends on the bail process.
There is no substitute for a good Texas criminal defense lawyer.
4. Who Can Arrest Me?
All law enforcement officers - such as police officers, county sheriff officers, investigators in a
district attorney's or an attorney general's offices and highway patrol officers - can arrest you whether they are
on or off duty, in most cases. A probation or parole officer also can arrest you.
They can arrest you - even if they do not have an arrest warrant - if they have probable cause or good reason to
believe you committed a felony, such as armed robbery. (A felony is a crime of a more serious nature than a
misdemeanor, usually punishable by imprisonment for more than a year.) They do not have to see you commit a felony
in order to arrest you. They do, however, have to see you commit a misdemeanor in order to arrest you.
If you commit an infraction, instead of taking you into custody, they may ask to sign a citation or
notice. This is a minor offense, such as a moving violation, where the punishment usually is a fine. If you sign the
citation, you are not admitting guilt, you are only promising to appear in court. If you have no identification or
refuse to sign, however, an officer may take you into custody.
5. Can Someone Other Than A Police Officer Arrest Me?
Any person, such as a private security guard, can make a citizen's arrest if they see a misdemeanor
being attempted or committed. (A misdemeanor is a criminal offense, usually punishable with a fine or short jail term.)
They also can make a legal arrest for a felony as long as it actually was committed and they have good reason to believe
you did it. They must take you to a police officer or judge who is required by law to take you into custody.
6. when is an arrest warrant used?
Usually a warrant is required before you can be taken into custody in your home. But you can be arrested
at home without a warrant if fast action is needed to prevent you from escaping, destroying evidence, endangering
someone's life or seriously damaging property.
The warrant must be signed by a magistrate or judge, who must have good reason to believe that you, whom the warrant
names, committed a crime. If your name is unknown, "John Doe" can be used on the warrant - along with your description.
Once an arrest warrant is issued, any law enforcement officer in the state can arrest you - even if the officer does not
have a copy of the warrant. Generally, there is no time limit on using a warrant to make an arrest.
Before entering your home, a law enforcement officer must knock and identify himself or herself and tell you that you
are going to be arrested. If you refuse to open the door - or if there is another good reason - the officer can break
in through a door or window if they have a search warrant.
If the police have an arrest warrant, you should be allowed to see it. If they don't have the warrant with them, you
should be allowed to see it as soon as practical.
The police may search the area within your reach. If you are arrested outdoors, they may not search your home or car, unless you have just exited your vehicle or unless they have a search warrant.
Resisting an arrest or detention is a crime. If you resist arrest, you can be charged with a misdemeanor or felony in addition
to the crime for which you are being arrested. If you resist, an officer can use force to overcome your resistance or prevent
your escape. The officer can even use deadly force if it appears you will use force to cause great bodily injury.
7. when can i be released?
If, during the questioning and before a charge is filed, the police are convinced that you have not committed a crime,
they will give you a written release. Your arrest then will be considered a detention and not recorded as an arrest.
8. what is bail and how is it set?
The amount of bail - money or other security deposited with the court to insure that you will appear - is set by a schedule
in each county. You may be notified that you can forfeit or give up bail instead of appearing in court if you receive a
traffic citation. However, if you have any doubt, go to court so a warrant is not issued for your arrest for failing to
appear. Bail forfeiture does not apply to misdemeanors or felonies. Forfeiting bail does not mean that the charges are dropped
and usually works as a conviction for a traffic offense.
A Magistrate at the jail will usually set bail or you may be held for a Judge to set bail. If you cannot post or put up the bail,
you will be kept in custody. Depending on where you are arrested, you may have the opportunity to request a bail reduction from a Judge.
When you are taken to court for bail setting or release, the judge will consider the seriousness of the offense you are charged with,
any prior failures to appear (even for traffic tickets), any previous record, your connections to the community, as well as the
probability that you will appear in court. The amount of bail is set according to a written schedule based on your charges. The law
presumes you are guilty of the charges for purposes of setting bail or release.
Instead of paying bail, you might be released on your own recognizance or "O.R." (or supervised O.R.). This means that you do not
have to pay bail because the judge believes that you will show up for court appearances without bail.
9. who maintains arrest records and what do they include?
Local police departments and the Judiciary keep arrest records. Your past criminal record may be in a national data bank.
The arrest record includes when and why you were arrested, whether the charges against you were dropped or whether you
were convicted of the charges, and the subsequent sentence imposed. Both pleading guilty and being found guilty after a
trial count as convictions.
If you are convicted of committing a misdemeanor, placed on probation and stay out of trouble, you are able to have the conviction
removed from your record for such purposes as employment background checks. This is often called "probation before verdict".
10. what happens at an arraignment?
You have a right to be arraigned without unnecessary delay - usually within a short period of time- after being arrested.
You will appear before a judge who will tell you officially of the charges against you at your first arraignment. At the
arraignment, an attorney may be appointed for you if you cannot afford one, and bail can be raised or lowered. You also
can ask to be released on P.R., even if bail was previously set.
If you are charged with a misdemeanor, you can plead guilty or not guilty at the arraignment. Or, if the court approves, you can
plead nolo contendere, meaning that you will not contest to the charges. Legally this is the same as a guilty plea, but it cannot
be used against you in a non-criminal case, unless the charge can be punished as a felony.
Before pleading guilty to some first-time offenses, such as drug use or possession in small amounts for personal use, you may
want to find out if your county has any drug diversion programs. Under these programs, instead of fining you or sending you to
jail, the court may order you to get counseling which can result in dismissal of the charges if you complete the counseling.
11. what happens at a preliminary hearing?
During the preliminary inquiry or hearing, usually within a short period after arrest, the States Attorney's office must
present evidence showing a reasonable suspicion that a felony was committed and that you did it to convince the judge that
you should be brought to trial.
In lesser offenses in the District Court of Texas the preliminary inquiry is only to find out if you have an attorney
and understand the charge. This hearing is often waived if your attorney enters his appearance in your case.
If you are charged with a crime and unable to understand English, you have a right to an interpreter throughout the proceedings.
REMEMBER THERE IS NO SUBSTITUTE FOR EXPERIENCED CRIMINAL LAWYERS! You could be sentenced to time in jail for
driving while intoxicated, possession of drugs or reckless driving. It is important to contact a lawyer immediately.
WHEN EXPERIENCE COUNTS YOU CANNOT AFFORD ANYTHING LESS!!
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