You are enjoying a peaceful evening at home when there is a sudden and unexpected knock at your door. There, standing on your front steps are two officers from your local police department. They indicate that they have a few questions for you and wonder if you would be willing to answer them. Or, they may ask if you would be willing to accompany them to the police station and answer their questions at that location. How would you respond?
Officers who have reasonable suspicion to believe you may be connected to criminal activity can stop you in a public place and ask you to identify yourself and indicate the nature of your business. This does not give law enforcement the right to demand you answer questions on your own private property. Nor may law enforcement continue to detain you and continue to ask you questions without your consent.
Are You Read Your Miranda Rights?
Whenever the police place you under arrest – either formally or through circumstances that indicate you are not free to leave – law enforcement officers must provide you with your Miranda rights. You may choose to exercise these rights and decline to answer any questions without having a lawyer present to represent you.
Note that if law enforcement officers do not read you your Miranda rights, this does not mean that your criminal charges are able to be dismissed. It only means that the prosecution may not be able to use statements you made or questions you answered against you at trial.
Is it a Good Idea to Talk to Law Enforcement?
The choice of whether you answer the questions of law enforcement officers who show up at your door or who ask you to come to the police station is yours alone. If you are unsure or in doubt of what to do, respectfully tell them you need to ask an attorney for advice before moving forward – then call an attorney. Unless officers have probable cause to believe you committed a crime, you may not usually be placed under arrest for refusing to answer questions about an alleged crime. If you do choose to speak with law enforcement officers, remember the following:
- In most cases, you only have to answer questions about your identity and reason for being in a certain public place (i.e., what you are doing);
- You can decline to speak with officers who appear at your home and decline to accompany police officers to the station to answer questions. You cannot be placed under arrest without an arrest warrant having been issued or unless law enforcement officers have probable cause to believe you committed a crime.
- Unless you have been placed under arrest, you are free to terminate your conversation with law enforcement and leave the conversation at any time. Even if you are under arrest, you do not have to continue answering questions and can indicate your desire to have an attorney present at any time.
Less is Better than Too Much
In summary, remember that you have the right to remain silent…and it is ALWAYS BETTER to remain silent and contact an attorney for guidance than to lie to law enforcement or incriminate yourself.
If you have been charged with a criminal offense in North Dakota or Minnesota, speak with your dedicated criminal defense team headed by Tatum O’Brien at O’Keeffe O’Brien Lyson Attorneys. You can contact the firm online, or call 701-235-8000 or 877-235-8002.
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