Rights of the Accused

by Derrick Saulsberry

There are questions that are asked over and over again by clients who have been accused of committing crimes. Invariably, these questions are regarding what law enforcement officials did or did not do. This short article will address one of the most frequent questions clients ask after they have been charged with a crime.

The most prevalent concern of individuals accused of a crime is the failure of law enforcement officials to “read me my rights.” Most people, including me, learned at an early age from watching television that the police are always supposed to read you your rights when you are detained or under arrest. However, what television does not tell you, either because of time constraints or because it is just not the job of TV, are the actual circumstances under which law enforcement officers are legally required to read an individual his or her rights.

Before law enforcement officials must read you your rights you have to be in custody and law enforcement officials must be questioning you. The keys here are custody and interrogation. The police can question an individual without reading them their rights if that person is not in police custody. Furthermore, if the individual is in custody and is not being interrogated, the police do not have to read that individual his or her rights. In order to constitute a violation of those rights, the accused must be in custody and undergoing questioning by law enforcement.

Briefly, some of those rights are the right to remain silent, the right to have an attorney present during any interrogation and the right to have an attorney appointed if the individual cannot afford to hire one. Additionally, one must fully understand those rights and give them up “knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily.”

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