What Are Your Rights If You Get Arrested?

Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Joe Raedle/Getty Images / Joe Raedle/Getty Images

As of Wednesday, June 3, U.S. police have arrested approximately 9300 people in connection to the protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd. Protestors lose certain rights when they're taken into police custody, but there's plenty they can do (and avoid doing) to legally protect themselves. Here are some rights regarding arrests that everyone in America should be familiar with.

When to Remain Silent

Thanks to the popularity of cop shows, the first few lines of the Miranda Warning are common knowledge among the public. It's true that you have the right to remain silent when you're arrested, even if the arresting officer doesn't recite this warning while apprehending you. According to The Legal Aid Society, there are a few pieces of information you should surrender if the police ask: your name, address, and date of birth. Lying about your identity could get you into more legal trouble. In an interview with Teen Vogue, clinical assistant professor of law and director of appellate litigation for the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center at Northwestern University David M. Shapiro said questions about height, weight, and criminal history should also be answered honestly when you're booked into jail. If you're an immigrant, you don't have to tell the police your citizenship status or say where you're from.

During an arrest, you also have the right to make requests of your own. You're allowed to ask why you're being arrested if you haven't been told already, and according to the ACLU, you should ask for a lawyer immediately. When you get to the police station, you have the right to make one local phone call. The police aren't allowed to listen if you call a lawyer, but that's not the case if you phone a friend or relative. If you don't already have a lawyer or don't think you can afford one, let the officers know so they can set you up with representation that works for you.

When to Withhold Consent

While apprehending you, an officer can pat you down and remove anything from your person. This may include your phone, but police need a warrant to search your personal devices without permission. That means they're not allowed to look through photos, videos, or other data without your consent. If an officer asks for your device, or asks for your passcode or fingerprint to unlock it, you have the right to deny the request. That being said, The Legal Aid Society recommends using a passcode with six or more digits and disabling face/fingerprint unlock on your phone to protect your digital security in case of an arrest.

The police may also ask to collect a DNA sample after arresting you. Even if you don't consent to this, you may leave behind a sample for them to test without realizing it. The Legal Aid Society Warns against drinking, smoking, or chewing gum in police custody, and if you do, they say to take any items you used with you and say out loud that you don't consent to your DNA being tested.

What to Do If You Think Your Rights Have Been Violated

Knowing your rights also means being able to recognize when they've been violated. If you think an officer is abusing their power during an arrest, remember and record as much information from the incident as possible. That includes badge numbers, patrol car numbers, names of the officers, the agency they work for, and witness contact information. Record video or photograph evidence of the violation if you can. With this information ready, you can file a complaint with the agency’s internal affairs division or civilian complaint board. You can also sue for civil rights violations, though such lawsuits against police can be expensive and hard for prosecutors to win.