Publication : Brochures
Your Legal Rights if Arrested
The Office of the Public Defender
for Baltimore City and the Public Awareness Committee of the Maryland State
Bar Association have prepared this information. It is intended to inform
the public and not to serve as legal advice on a specific legal matter.
What is an Arrest?
An arrest is the taking, seizing or detaining of an individual
by touching or putting hands on a person or taking action that indicates
an intention to take the individual into custody and subjects him or her
to the control and will of the person making the arrest.
When you are lawfully arrested your person and the immediate
area of your place of arrest may be searched. If you are arrested in your
home, the police may also conduct a limited search for persons outside the
immediate area of the arrest.
What is an Arrest Warrant?
An arrest warrant is a written order by a judge commanding
the police to arrest the person named in the warrant.
If you are arrested pursuant to a warrant, the police must
tell you that they are acting under authority of the warrant and show the
warrant to you at the time of the arrest or promptly thereafter.
Police officers seeking to arrest you in your home must
reveal their purpose and authority, unless they believe that with notification
you will attempt to escape, destroy evidence or cause them harm.
Can I be Arrested Without a Warrant?
You can be arrested without a warrant if the police have
reason to believe that you have committed or are about to commit: (1) a felony
whether or not in their presence; (2) a misdemeanor in their presence; (3)
a misdemeanor not in their presence if they have reason to believe you may
escape, cause injury to persons or property, or destroy evidence unless immediately
arrested. Without your consent or special circumstances, you cannot be arrested
in your home without a warrant.
You can also be arrested without a warrant for traffic
violations, including: driving or attempting to drive while intoxicated or
under the influence of alcohol or drugs; failing to stop or give information
in the event of an accident causing death, bodily injury or property damage;
driving or attempting to drive on a suspended or revoked license; fleeing
or attempting to elude police officers; or when the police reasonably believe
you will disregard a traffic citation.
When Can a Citizen Make an Arrest?
A citizen may arrest you without warrant if you have committed
a misdemeanor amounting to a breach of the peace or a felony in the citizen’s
presence. A citizen’s arrest is only lawful if you have in fact committed
the crime for which you are being arrested.
If you have been arrested by a private citizen and did
not commit a crime, you may sue for unlawful arrest, even if the citizen
had reason to believe you were guilty. However you may not sue property owners
or merchants if they detained you because they believed you had wrongfully
taken their property.
What are My Rights if Approached by a Police Officer?
The law permits police officers to approach you in a public
place to request information. You need not submit to questioning and are
free to walk away.
If the police reasonably suspect that you are committing,
have committed or are about to commit a crime, they may briefly detain you
for questioning. Under these circumstances, the officers may request your
identification and an explanation for your actions. You are not required
to answer. You may be frisked for weapons during the detention if the police
officers reasonably suspect that you are armed and dangerous. If while frisking
you for weapons, they find anything illegal, it may be confiscated and you
can be arrested.
Can I be Searched Without a Warrant?
A warrant is not required for a pat-down frisk when the
officers reasonably suspect that you are armed. A search without a warrant
is also proper when contraband is in the officers’ plain view or the
officers are making a lawful arrest.
A search warrant is a written order by a judge directing
the police to search a certain place or person for specified property and
to seize the property. The warrant must describe the person or place to be
searched and the property to be seized. In most instances, anything unlawfully
taken by police officers cannot be used as evidence against you. However,
if the officers have reasonably relied on a warrant which is later declared
invalid or if the officers would have discovered the evidence through other
means, the evidence may be used against you.
What are My Rights if Arrested?
If you are taken into police custody, you have the right
to: be informed of the charges against you and the allowable penalties; obtain
a lawyer, including the right to have one appointed if you cannot afford
one; have a judge decide whether you should be released from jail until your
trial; and remain silent.
The police may ask your name, address, and other routine
processing questions. Before questioning you about anything else, the police
must tell you that you have a right to remain silent; that any statement
you make may be used as evidence against you; and that you have a right to
speak with a lawyer and, if you wish, to have a lawyer present when you are
being questioned. The police must also tell you that a lawyer will be assigned
to your case without cost if you cannot afford a lawyer but want to speak
to one before questioned. The questioning must stop if you state that you
wish to remain silent or request a lawyer.
You silence cannot be used against you. However, what you
say, as well as what you write or sign, can be used against you. Unless you
actually requested a lawyer, the police may later ask you to speak with them.
If you have requested a lawyer instead of merely refusing to answer questions,
the police cannot question you further unless you later decide to talk without
the benefit of legal counsel.
Your Legal Rights if Arrested © 1987, MSBA, Inc. Revised
All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced in any form without
written permission from the Maryland State Bar Association.