Most people are aware of their Constitutional right to remain silent if they are taken into police custody. Whether you’re simply being questioned or you have been arrested, never talk to the police is normally your best option without an attorney present. Significantly, it’s not uncommon for a suspect or criminal defendant to inadvertently make incriminatory statements that can adversely impact the outcome of their case. If you’re facing criminal charges or are a criminal suspect, it’s important to have a skilled criminal defense attorney present at any police interrogation to ensure your rights are protected.
The U.S. Constitution protects everyone in Alaska and throughout the U.S. from being forced to make incriminating statements against themselves. Specifically, the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution reads in part that no person " 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.” In other words, this right prevents the prosecution from compelling you to testify against yourself at trial.
Also rooted in the protections provided by the U.S. Constitution are a criminal defendant’s Miranda rights. Upon taking you into custody and initiating an interrogation, police must read you what is your “Miranda warning,” which comes from the case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, Miranda v. Arizona. This warning advises you that:
Once you invoke your right to remain silent, law enforcement cannot compel you to answer questions that could aid them in making a case against you in criminal court. Importantly, you must unequivocally invoke this right by making a statement such as “I am exercising my right to remain silent,” or “I want to speak with a lawyer.”
Always ask for a lawyer if police are attempting to question or interrogate you. This cannot be stressed enough, to never talk to the police without your attorney is a best practice and your best chance at a favorable outcome. If you find yourself to be the subject of any possible criminal investigation, never speak to a police officer or answer their questions without an attorney present. Although the police must give you a Miranda warning before engaging in custodial interrogation, they do not need to stop questioning you — and anything you say can be used by the prosecution in court. But as soon as you clearly and unequivocally ask for a lawyer, any interrogation must cease.
Notably, many legal complexities can arise when raising a challenge based on a violation of a defendant's Miranda rights. While the general rule is that questioning must stop after invoking your Miranda rights, under certain circumstances, the prosecution may be able to use statements you made after you requested legal counsel. For instance, if you continue to talk after asking for a lawyer, your actions may be construed as a waiver of your Miranda rights. Additionally, if you are read your rights and tell the police you want a lawyer but later initiate conversation, the statements you make after being given a subsequent Miranda warning would likely be admissible in court.
In Alaska, if you are stopped by a police officer, the only information you are required to release is your name and identification information. You do not need to volunteer any other information or answer further questions, such as “Where are you going,” “Where have you been,” or “What are you doing?” However, the police can continue to question you if you don’t object and are willing to provide answers.
If you’ve been stopped by the police, it's always best to ask if you may leave. If you are free to go, then you should calmly do so. In the event you are not allowed to leave and are placed under arrest, you have the right to know why. If an officer takes you into police custody, it’s imperative that you ask to speak with a lawyer.
If you’ve been arrested, it’s vital to have a skilled criminal defense attorney who can protect your rights and help ensure the best possible results are achieved in your case. Known as the Trial Guy, Eric Derleth has 25 years of experience practicing criminal defense law in Alaska. With offices in Anchorage and Soldotna, Eric handles criminal cases in Anchorage, Soldotna, Kenai, Palmer, Wasilla, and throughout the state. If you or a loved one faces a felony or misdemeanor criminal charges in Alaska, please contact attorney Eric at 907-262-9164 or online to learn how he can help.