Police officers and other government agents are granted the power to uphold the law. However, it is easy for individuals who are given power to abuse it. While their intentions may be good, in their zeal to preserve order, they may overreach. If you are the one arrested, you may suffer as a result.
The framers of the U.S. Constitution understood how easy it can be to abuse power. That is why they wrote the Bill of Rights to protect those accused of a crime and give them legal recourse if their rights were violated.
If arrested, you should not assume that police will respect your constitutional rights. You may have to assert them yourself. If so, it is helpful to know what they are. It may also be worthwhile to know what you can do in the event of a violation of your rights.
There are three particular amendments to the Bill of Rights that apply during an arrest. Unfortunately, violations of these amendments happen more often than anyone would like to believe.
The Fourth Amendment protects you against unreasonable searches and seizures. It presumes that you have an expectation of privacy in your residence, place of business, luggage, clothing, vehicles, etc.
Generally speaking, police must either ask for and receive your consent or obtain a warrant to perform a search. However, there are exceptions to this rule. If the police have probable cause to believe that you may have committed a crime, they do not need a search warrant. A warrant is also not required to confiscate evidence that is already in plain sight.
Furthermore, the expectation of privacy is not always equal. For example, you have a lower expectation of privacy in your vehicle than you would in your residence.
The Fifth Amendment protects you from self-incrimination. During an arrest, police must inform you of your Miranda rights to remain silent, have an attorney present, etc. Once you invoke your rights, law enforcement officers are expected to respect them and act accordingly.
The Eighth Amendment protects against cruel and unusual punishment. This may refer to physical mistreatments, such as beatings or deprivation. However, it can also be applied to onerous economic punishments, such as excessive fines.
If your constitutional rights were violated at your arrest, you can assert them either defensively or offensively. A defensive assertion of your rights involves using the violation as evidence at your trial to demonstrate that the charges against you are not fair. An offensive assertion involves bringing a lawsuit against the responsible parties for damages related to the violation.
It may be possible to make both a defensive assertion and an offensive assertion of your constitutional rights. A criminal defense attorney in San Mateo, CA can explain your options. Contact a law firm for more information.
Thanks to The Morales Law Firm for their insight into criminal defense and knowing your rights if arrested.