Am I Being Detained? 6 Questions You Should Ask During Interactions With the Police in West Chester

If you are stopped by police, asking certain questions can help you get on your way without being wrongfully accused of a crime. They can also help tee up a defense if you are ultimately charged with a crime. For instance, if the police give the wrong answer, it may mean they violated your constitutional rights; your lawyer can use this to your advantage.

In any situation, the key thing to remember is to invoke your right to remain silent. If police are asking you questions, they aren’t just being friendly; they are trying to pin a crime on you. After asking the police these six questions, don’t say anything else, remain silent and call an attorney. 

#1 Am I Free to Go? 

When police start talking to you, the interaction will fall into one of two categories: voluntary or involuntary interaction. If the interaction is voluntary, you need to immediately end the interaction.

Don’t get caught up making small talk. This is a classic police tactic to get you to incriminate yourself. Politely ask if you are free to go before saying anything else.

#2 Am I Being Detained?

If police say you are not free to go, the next question is if you are being detained. If you are being detained, this is formally called a “stop.” A stop can occur if you are a pedestrian (Terry Stop) or in a vehicle (Traffic Stop). 

In order to make a lawful stop, police need reasonable suspicion that someone has engaged in or is about to engage in criminal conduct. This can be as minor as a traffic violation or suspicion of a more serious crime. In either case, police are required to have specific facts that create their suspicion. The stop can be challenged in court later. And if the police didn’t have enough facts, the stop is illegal, and all evidence and statements could be thrown out.

#3 Am I Under Arrest?

If you have been detained in West Chester, the next step is for the police to either let you leave when they are done talking to you or arrest you for a crime. As discussed above, police can make a mandatory stop with reasonable suspicion. However, they must meet a higher standard in order to arrest you.

To make a lawful arrest, police need probable cause that an individual committed a crime. Probable cause is something more than a subjective belief and more than mere reasonable suspicion. It requires articulable, objective facts that this individual committed a crime. 

Police aren’t allowed to stop you indefinitely without arresting you. After a little while, they need to either cut you loose or make an arrest. Asking if you are under arrest can help tee up a defense later in court. Once police say you are under arrest, your Miranda rights kick in. 

#4 Do You Have a Warrant? 

A search warrant or arrest warrant is a formal legal document signed by a judge certifying that the police have probable cause to perform a search or make an arrest. If police are trying to search you or place you under arrest, you should ask if they have a warrant.

If police do not have a search warrant, they will usually ask for consent to search. Tell them that you DO NOT consent to a search. If they still perform a search, it may be considered illegal, and you might have a defense later in court. Asking for a warrant helps you clarify that you don’t consent to any searches. 

#5 What Am I Being Arrested For?

Because police are required to have probable cause to arrest you, they must suspect you of committing a specific crime. You have the right to know what you are under arrest for. If police can’t tell you why you are under arrest, they should release you.

#6 Can I Talk to My Lawyer?

During interactions with law enforcement, you have the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. Tell the police that you want your lawyer present for any questioning, and then invoke your right to remain silent. 

Don’t make the mistake of answering questions and making chit chat. Every question the police ask you is carefully calculated to get you talking and trap you in a lie or inconsistency. Don’t play their games. Stay silent and call a criminal defense lawyer.

Contact Our Criminal Defense Law Firm in West Chester, PA

If you are facing criminal charges and need legal help, contact the West Chester, PA criminal defense lawyers at DiCindioLaw, LLC to schedule a free initial consultation.

DiCindio Law, LLC

29 S Walnut St
West Chester, PA 19382
(610) 430-3535