Statistics and data compiled by the Philadelphia Police Department show that crime is continuing to increase, albeit slightly, in the Philadelphia area.1 With an increase in crime, police and law enforcement officials become more vigilant and make more frequent stops in connection with crimes. If you are ever stopped, you have, under the Constitutions of the United States and the State of Pennsylvania, certain rights afforded to you.

A Right to Remain Silent

Most people are familiar with the Miranda Rights. These Constitutionally-recognized rights granted to individuals arrested or detained have been recognized since the Supreme Court case of Miranda v. Arizona.2 These rights are required to be read to any individual is under police custody and among those rights is the right for an individual to remain silent. An individual stopped or accused of a crime is not required to speak and potentially self-incriminate him or herself.

However, as is the case with our justice system, subsequent Supreme Court cases have slowly begun to erode these rights. Among those is the right to remain silent. In Salinas v. Texas, the Supreme Court found that an individual’s silence during questioning could be used as evidence of guilt. The Court determined that, because the suspect had been answering questions voluntarily prior to using silence in response to a question of murder, no rights had been violated. The Court found that an individual’s right to remain silent may not be invoked simply through silence, but must be expressly invoked by the individual being question.3

Therefore, it is now necessary that individuals who are stopped and questioned invoke his or her right to remain silent. Failure to do so may allow law enforcement officials and the prosecution to use the individual’s silence against him or her. The right to remain silent even applies in instances of pre-arrest questioning.

A Right to an Attorney

Individuals have a protected right to effective legal representation. This can be an attorney which is privately retained or appointed by the State. While attorneys play a critical role in an individual’s legal defense at trial, access to an effective attorney is an important right afforded throughout all stages of legal proceedings. This means that an individual who is arrested may invoke his or her legal right to obtain effective legal counsel.

Reasonableness of a Search

The Supreme Court has, throughout the course of several different cases, established more guidelines regarding the ability of law enforcement to search individuals for weapons and contraband. Among those is the breadth of application regarding “Search-Incident-to-Arrest.” An officer who performs a lawful stop and arrest is allowed to search the detained for any potentially hidden weapons. These searches are, however, not without limits. An officer is only allowed to search the individual’s person, clothing, and immediate vicinity. If an officer exceeds the allowed scope of a search, the search may be considered unlawful and that evidence which is found may be barred from admission at trial.

Right Against (Excessive) Force

The advances and accessibility of technology have helped bring police brutality into the public light. Video recordings of instances of police brutality have helped substantiate arrested individuals’ claims of having suffered police violence. An individual who is arrested has the same protections as any other individual. He or she is not to be physically abused, especially violently, simply because he or she is under arrest.

In certain instances, police are allowed to use reasonable force in order to subdue a suspect. It is important that the force be reasonable and necessary and cease when the suspect is subdued. When it does not, the use of force can result in serious physical and emotional injuries. It may also result in the death of the suspect. An individual who suffers these injuries has a legal right to recover against the offending officers.

How Can an Attorney Help Me?

Your legal rights are not suspended simply because you are stopped and arrested by law enforcement. Any violations of your rights should be carefully addressed by a skilled attorney who may help ensure that any unlawfully obtained information is suppressed. If you are a victim of police brutality, an attorney can help you recover damages for any losses and pain and suffering you suffer as a result.

Contact a Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorney If You Have Been Arrested

Police should be held accountable for any breaches of duty and for any incident in which they violate an individual’s legal rights. If your legal rights are violated, you should be assured that those violations will not negatively impact you. If you have been arrested and believe your constitutional rights have been violated, or if you believe you have been a victim of police brutality, you should contact The Zeiger Firm at 215-546-0340 for help.





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