Parnell Law Firm

Your Rights

In 1966, the U.S. Supreme Court decided the historic case of Miranda v. Arizona, declaring that whenever a person is taken into police custody, before being questioned he or she must be told of the Fifth Amendment right not to make any self-incriminating statements. As a result of Miranda, anyone in police custody must be told four things before being questioned:

  • You have the right to remain silent.
  • Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.
  • You have the right to an attorney.
  • If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.


The wording of the Miranda rights may vary by jurisdiction, but will typically convey the relevant message. The officer must also ensure that the suspect understands his or her rights. Should the suspect not speak English, these rights must be translated to make sure they are understood.

Miranda Rights were created in 1966 as a result of the United States Supreme Court case of Miranda v. Arizona. The Miranda warning is intended to protect the suspect's Fifth Amendment right to refuse to answer self-incriminating questions.

It is important to note that Miranda rights do not go into effect until after an arrest is made. The officer is free to ask questions before an arrest, but must inform the suspect that the questioning is voluntary and that he or she is free to leave at any time. The voluntary answers provided in response to these questions are admissible in court even without a Miranda warning.

If the suspect is placed under arrest and not read Miranda rights, spontaneous or voluntary statements may be used in evidence in court. For example, if the suspect justifes why he or she committed a crime, the statements can be used at trial.

Remaining Silent

United States Constitution, Amendment V:
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Your rights do not derive from the government. As such, it is not necessary for a law officer to remind you of your rights before you invoke them.

Traffic Stop

Police need probable cause that you have violated the law in some way before they can stop your car. Always be polite, keep your hands where the officer can see them, and if asked to provide indentification, do so.

But DO NOT give the officer any information that will lead them to believe you have violated the law (i.e. probable cause) or confirm you have broken the law. You are under no obligation to speak to the officer beyond basic information like your identity and lawful right to drive the vehicle on the roads of Florida. The less you say, the better.

Many times, officers make a traffic stop believing the driver may be under the influence of alcohol. You may think that an answer like, "I've only had a couple of beers," is a good, honest answer but you just confirmed the officer's probable cause for making the stop to investigate a potential DUI. More than likely, you will next be asked to exit the vehicle to perform field sobriety tests.

Again, you are under no obligation to talk to the officer about anything once they have your license, registration, and insurance information. You will likely not be able to talk your way out of the stop. Even if you think you are not incriminating yourself, what you say will be used against you, so why take the risk of telling the officer anything? If an officer thinks there is enough evidence to arrest you, you will arrested you whether you talk or not. Remain silent and do not risk making matters worse.

Many times, an officer will tell you they cannot help you if you do not talk to them. More often than not, what you tell them will be in their report and will be used against you. It is important to remember that police officers are under no obligation to be honest with you.

If you are arrested merely for refusing to talk with police, and there is no probable cause for the arrest, The Parnell Law Firm can challenge the validity of the arrest in court. If you try to talk your way out of the arrest, everything you say can and will be used against you.

Think of it this way: if you want to talk to the officer, talk to your lawyers first.

Stopped While Walking Or Riding A Bicycle

A police office may approach you on the street in what is called "a consensual citizen encounter." Consent is required by both parties, you and the officer. The officer will generally begin with the question, "Hi, can I talk to you for a minute?" You should always politely answer "no" and go about your business.

If they keep following you, remain silent and continue about your business. If they forcefully stop you, it is likely an unlawful detention, and should they arrest you for anything despite your silence, The Parnell Law Firm can challenge the unlawful detention and arrest in court.

You should also remain silent during traffic stops. If there is no probable cause to believe that you have committed or are committing a crime, they cannot make you stop, talk to them, or even provide identification. It must be consensual, meaning they must have your consent for anything. Do not consent -doing so is not in your best interest, although many times police officers will do their best to make you think it is.

If you feel you must answer the officer's questions:

  • Officer: "Do you have anything on you that is illegal or could get you in trouble?"
  • Answer: "No."
  • Officer: "May I search you?"
  • Answer: "No."
  • Officer: "Can you show me some identification?"
  • Answer: "No."
  • Officer: "Do you have any outstanding warrants?"
  • Answer: "No."

Do not give the officer any information that will be used against you in establishing probable cause for the stop.

If You Are Arrested

An arrest is a detention where you are not free to leave if the police believe you have committed a crime. Police are to read your Miranda Rights once you are arrested only if they want to question you. These rights are read to you and you should take them very, very literally:

  • You have the right to remain silent (and you should exercise this right.)
  • Anything you say can and will be used against you.
  • You have a right to have an attorney present.
  • If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.


Once in custody, you only need to give your name, address, and show identification if you have it. Do not say anything other than you want an attorney. Do not make matters worse by trying to talk your way out of the situation and providing information "that can and will be used against you in a court of law."

Call The Parnell Law Firm so we can intervene on your behalf quickly.

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212 W. Cervantes

Pensacola, Florida 32501



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