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What Are My Rights If I Am Arrested?


Updated February 20, 2009

Question: What Are My Rights If I Am Arrested?

Many activities related to addictive behaviors are against the law. Drug users are often adept at avoiding arrest, but it is always a risk. Possessing illegal drugs, for example, is a common grounds for arrest among people with addictions, although there are many more, and they are not limited to drug-related offenses.

So what do you need to know, in the event of being arrested? Here are some basic guidelines which apply to arrests in the United States. Remember, other jurisdictions may not give you the same rights.


The Right to Information

You have the right to be informed of your basic rights before being interrogated. This will normally be done verbally. However, you can be arrested without having your rights read to you. This is why it is a good idea to know your rights ahead of time.

The Right to Silence

You have the right to remain silent. This means you don’t have to say anything, even if you are interrogated. You should be informed that if you do say anything, it can be used against you in court. For this reason, it’s a good idea not to say anything until you have spoken with your lawyer.

However, police are allowed to ask routine questions like name, address, date of birth, and Social Security number to identify you, and to give alcohol and drug tests without warning, although you can refuse to answer questions during the tests.

The Right to an Attorney

You have the right to have an attorney present now and during any future questioning. An attorney is a lawyer, who will help the court understand what you did, and help you put together a defense case. This is a way of explaining what you did, why you did it, and whether there were understandable reasons for doing so.

If you cannot afford an attorney, one can be appointed to you free of charge. It is important you understand this right, because lawyers’ fees are expensive, and people with addictions often have limited funds available. Without understanding this right, you might feel you can’t afford a lawyer to represent you. You have the right for a break in questioning until your lawyer can be present.


Longley, R. “Miranda: Rights of Silence.” Accessed Feb 19 2009.

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