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Your Fifth Amendment right to an attorney explained

The right to counsel is ingrained in every single person’s mind who ever watched Law and Order, NYPD Blue or the other classic “cop shows.” The good guys slap the cuffs on the bad guys and “read ’em their rights.” Those rights are called “Miranda rights.” One of those rights is the right to counsel. In addition, you have the right to remain silent and not answer questions issued by the police before the arrival of your attorney.

But one thing you should realize is that if a police officer solicits information from you without placing you under arrest, he or she is under no obligation to tell you about your Miranda rights. What’s more, anything you tell the officer could be used as incriminating evidence against you in a court of law.

However, once the officer decides to arrest you, he or she must then inform you of your rights, and in turn, you may invoke your right to counsel. “Invoke” is the important word because you must tell the police you want a lawyer. If you are arrested, read your rights and subsequently confess to everything, then those are all admissions. You must unequivocally inform the police that you require an attorney to be present. Short of that, the law will generally presume that you freely intended to confess.

If you were recently arrested then you may want to speak to a lawyer. Once you are arrested and invoke your right to counsel, the police must allow an attorney access to you. This is a powerful tool if, for no other reason, a lawyer can be with you during the interrogation. Police are very good at intimidating people into confessions; don’t let yourself be tricked into tanking your own defense.


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