1. What rights do I have?
Whether you are an adult citizen or non-citizen, you have certain constitutional rights after you are arrested. Before the law enforcement officer questions you after an arrest, 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.
You also have a right to know the crime or crimes with which you have been charged and the identity of the police officers who are dealing with you. Not every officer is forthcoming about this information, even though is your right by statute. You also have the right to communicate by telephone with your attorney, family, friends, or bondsperson as soon after you are brought into the police station as practicable. The police are allowed to complete their booking procedures before letting you use the telephone.
At this point, you should probably consider whether to use a local lawyer, especially if you were injured as part of the arrest and you feel as if the injury was unwarranted.
2. If my Miranda Rights weren’t read, does this mean my charges will be dropped?
This is one of the most common questions I receive in my law practice. Many people think that simply because the police failed to read them their rights, that the case is going to be automatically be thrown out. This is not true. Typically, the only thing that would happen if the rights were not read is that anything that said in response to police questioning after an arrest could not be used against you in your case.
Very frequently, officers have gathered all the information that they need PRIOR to the arrest and will not question suspects after their arrest and, thus, Miranda never needs to be read. When the police have questioned you without reading your rights and, for example, you made a statement, that statement would not be able to be used in the case against you. In most situations, it is best to not answer questions without having an attorney present. If you ask to speak with an attorney, an officer must immediately cease questioning you.
Another common situation is where a suspect voluntarily provides information to the police that is not in response to a question. In this situation, Miranda would typically not apply. Miranda is a complicated area of the law with lots of rules and exceptions. It’s best to consult with an experienced defense attorney to determine if your Miranda rights were violated in your situation.
3. What happens at an Initial Appearance?
Within 48 hours of your arrest, a judge will hold a preliminary hearing to decide whether there is “probable cause for your arrest” or enough evidence to support the charge against you. If the judge finds that there is “probable cause” for the charges — enough evidence that a reasonable person could be convinced that you committed the crime – then the judge will set the terms of your release. The terms of release normally include a monetary bond set by the judge at the initial appearance and can also include other restrictions like checking in with a Pre-Trial Release Officer, not using or possessing weapons or not having any contact with the alleged victims of the case.
4. What is bail and how is it set?
The amount of bail bond – money or other security deposited with the court to insure that you will appear. When setting the terms of your release, the judge will consider the seriousness of the offense with which you are charged, any prior failures to appear in court (even for traffic tickets), any previous criminal record, your ties and connections to the community, as well as the probability that you’ll appear in court. Florida law provides that for most cases bond should be set in at reasonable amount that is attainable by the defendant. In reality, oftentimes a judge may set bond at an amount too high for a defendant to afford. A criminal defense attorney can file a motion with the court asking the judge to reduce the bond and/or modify the conditions of release (such as not having any contact with the victim).