Knowing your constitutional rights can guide you if you need to interact with Florida law enforcement officers. Preparation can help protect you from unlawful questioning or self-incrimination, especially if the officers suspect you of a crime. Knowing and acting on your rights can become critical if the situation turns into a criminal defense case.
Your rights with different law officers
Some individuals mistakenly think that their rights, including the right to remain silent, only apply during police officer questioning. However, a person’s rights protect them during interactions with any law enforcement officer. That includes enforcement personnel from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), state police officers and officers from the Joint Terrorism Task Force.
It also includes federal agents from the Department of Homeland Security, Drug Enforcement Administration, Border and Immigration Control, Naval Criminal Investigative Service and other government agencies.
Right to remain silent
You have a right not to speak and can say, “I wish to remain silent,” to protect yourself from saying something that could incriminate you or someone else. Some states require you to give your name to an officer and, during a traffic stop, provide your license, insurance and registration, but you do not need to say anything else.
Regardless of the agency the officer works with or the situation, such as being in court, anything you do say could be used against you and other people. You do not have to speak to officers even if you are arrested or are in jail for a criminal charge.
Even if you receive a subpoena or a law officer threatens you with a subpoena, you can remain silent. The only person who can order you to speak is a judge.
Right to an attorney
Once a law enforcement officer begins questioning you, you have the right to request legal representation. Once you have expressed your right to have a criminal defense attorney present, the officer should refrain from any further questioning. If an officer persists after you request an attorney, you can still legally remain silent, and the officer could be reprimanded.
Rights in an officer interview
If a law enforcement officer requests to interview you, you can refuse and say that you do not want to participate. If you are taken into custody or agree to an interview, you have a right to have an attorney present, to know what questions they will ask beforehand and only answer if you feel comfortable. As with other scenarios, anything you say is “on record” and can be used against you.
If questioned by law enforcement officers, knowing and adhering to your constitutional rights can protect you from self-incrimination.