Do Police Have To Advise You Of Your Rights Before Making An Arrest?
During a custodial interrogation, the police are required to advise you of your rights–i.e., to remain silent and speak with an attorney–before questioning you. Any statements made prior to such warning are inadmissible in any criminal trial. That said, a court can admit statements that were made while you were only temporarily detained by the police but not officially in custody.
There is unfortunately a huge gray area between “custodial interrogation” and “temporary detention.” If you are caught in the middle, you may not understand your official status. That is why it is always best to say nothing when questioned by the police. Even if you assume you are not in custody–i.e., you are free to leave–that is not necessarily how a judge will see things later.
CCA: Drug Defendant Could Not “Reasonably” Believe She Was in Custody When Answering Detective’s Question
A recent decision from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Wexler v. State, provides a good example of what Keith B. French Law are talking about. This case began when police obtained a warrant to search a suspected drug house in South Houston. The Harris County sent a heavily armed SWAT team to execute the search. Through a loudspeaker atop an armored vehicle, police ordered the occupant of the residence to exit the house.
One of the people who exited was the defendant in this case. As officers began the search, a detective questioned the defendant. The police suspected the defendant of being a drug dealer but did not inform her of this fact. The detective did not advise the defendant of her rights. Instead, the detective said, “We have a search warrant. Tell me where the narcotics are. It will save us some time doing the search. We’re going to find it no matter what.”
The defendant told the detective that there were drugs located in the dresser of her bedroom. The officers searched that location and found approximately 25 grams of methamphetamine and other drugs and drug paraphernalia. At her subsequent criminal trial, the defendant objected to the admission of her statement, arguing it was the product of coercion during a custodial interrogation.
The case made it all the way to the CCA, which held the police did nothing wrong. The burden was on the defendant to prove she was in custody when she made her statement, and she did not meet it, the CCA said. Based on the record, the CCA said the defendant was only “briefly” detained by the one detective, she was not placed under arrest or removed from the search area, and she was “not told that she could not leave.” Under the circumstances, the CCA said a “reasonable person” would not believe their “freedom was restrained to a degree associated with an arrest.” So her statement was admissible in court.
Contact Pearland, Texas, Criminal Defense Lawyer Keith B. French Today
Whether or not you believe you are under arrest, if the police start asking you questions about possible illegal activity, the best thing you can do is keep quiet. And if you are arrested, your first call should be to an experienced Pearland drug crimes attorney. Contact Keith B. French Law, PLLC, today if you need to speak with a lawyer right away.