Civil Rights

Know your rights if you are arrested

Recently, the New York State Bar Association published a brochure offering insight into New York’s criminal procedure laws. These are some of the Bar Association’s findings:

  • When making an arrest without a warrant a police officer must tell you the reason for the arrest, unless you’re in the act of committing the crime or being chased.
  • Warrants may be executed at any time during the week.
  • A police officer must tell you that he is acting under the authority of a warrant and show you the warrant if you ask.
  • If you refuse to let a police officer with a warrant in, he/she may break open the door or window to gain entrance, after he has given you notice of his authority and purpose.
  • A police officer may arrest you without a warrant if a crime or violation is being committed in his presence or if he has reason to believe that you committed a crime although not in his presence.
  • A citizen may arrest you if you have committed a crime in his presence.
  • You may sue a private individual for an unlawful arrest if you did nit commit any crime, even if the individual had reasonable cause to believe you had committed a crime.
  • If you have been arrested by a private citizen, you must be turned over to a judge or police officer without unnecessary delay.
  • If you resist arrest, a police officer may use all necessary means to arrest you, including force.
  • The law permits a police officer to approach any person in a public place to request information if he reasonably suspects that you have committed or are about to commit a crime. However, you are not required to answer.
  • When you are lawfully arrested, your person and the immediate are of the place of your arrest may be searched.
  • If a police officer searches you for dangerous weapons and finds something, he may keep it until he finishes questioning you. If he does not arrest you, he must give you back the weapon (if you have a permit to carry it.)
  • In all situations, a police officer needs a warrant to search you, unless under special circumstances that can be justified by the law.
  • Anything unlawfully taken by the police may not later be used against you.
  • If taken into custody:
    1. You have the right to telephone your lawyer or your family or friends to notify them of your arrest.
    2. You have the right to speak with your lawyer at the place you are being held.
    3. You have the right to remain silent. Before the police question you, they must tell you that you have the right to remain silent. That anything you say can be used as evidence against you, and you have the right to first speak with an attorney. If you cannot afford one, one will be appointed to you.
  • When you are arrested, a record of your arrest is made. If the case I dismissed, you may apply for the sealing of the record of that case. If personal items are taken from you, you must be given a receipt to show what was taken.
  • Your right to a lawyer is a fundamental one at every stage of a criminal proceeding.
  • If you appear in court without a lawyer, the judge must allow you “reasonable time” to find one.
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