What are my rights if I’m being questioned by police in SC?
Do I have to talk to the police? What if I tell them I don’t want to answer their questions? Should I talk to the police?
If I don’t want to talk to the police, how should I tell them? Will they get mad? What if I do talk to the police? What are my rights then?
If the police want to talk with you – whether you are a potential suspect, a witness to a crime, or you have no idea what it is about – you should talk to your attorney before you show up for a police interview.
If you think you are under investigation for a crime, call attorney Daniel A. Selwa for a free consultation about what your rights are and how you should handle a police interview.
What are My Rights if I’m Being Questioned by Police in SC?
First and foremost, you have the right not to talk to the police – you do not have to answer questions and you should never speak to the police without first consulting your attorney.
Many of your rights when police want to question you are contained within the “Miranda rights,” which police are required to read to you before asking you any questions if you are in custody.
If you are not in police custody and police do not read the Miranda rights to you, however, you still have the right to refuse to answer questions and your only statements to the police should be:
- I’m exercising my right to remain silent,
- I would like to speak to my attorney, and
- Am I free to go? (Or, “goodbye,” as you close your door)
If you intend to rely on your Miranda rights, you must clearly and unambiguously say so.
The US Supreme Court, in cases like Berghuis v. Thompkins, has held that you must say “I’m invoking my right to remain silent,” or “I want my attorney before I will answer any questions,” to trigger the protections of Miranda.
The Court has this ridiculous notion that ordinary people will feel safe and comfortable walking away from a police officer or refusing to talk in the face of repeated questioning. This means ordinary people must become comfortable walking away from police officers and refusing to speak to them…
What are your Miranda rights?
In Miranda v. Arizona, the US Supreme Court held in 1966 that, before questioning when you are in custody, police must inform you that:
- You have the right to remain silent;
- Anything you say can be used against you in court;
- You have the right to talk to an attorney before questioning;
- You have the right to have your attorney present during questioning;
- If you can’t afford an attorney, the court will appoint one; and
- You have the right to stop answering questions at any time.
In sum, 1) you have the right to refuse to speak to the police or answer their questions and 2) you have the right to talk to an attorney before and during any questioning by the police.
You should exercise these rights any time that police want to speak with you – even if you do not know why they are trying to question you.
Regardless of whether you are in custody, you have the right to not be coerced into giving a statement.
If your “will is overborne” by coercive police conduct (a high standard to meet), any statements that you make will be inadmissible at your trial, even for impeachment purposes.
In most criminal trials that potentially involve statements made by the defendant, the court will hold a “Jackson v. Denno” hearing before or during the trial to hear what the statements will be and to determine whether the statements were taken voluntarily.
Knock and Talk
There is nothing wrong with police showing up at your home, knocking on your door, and asking you if you don’t mind answering a few questions. They do not need a warrant to walk up to your front door any more than the mailman does…
But the SC Supreme Court held in 2022 in State v. Ferguson that SC’s explicit constitutional right to privacy requires police to have reasonable suspicion of a crime before approaching a residence to investigate a suspected crime.
When this happens, they do not have to read your Miranda rights to you because you are not in custody (although you might be after the questioning).
You have the right to ask them to leave and to tell them you choose to exercise your right to remain silent. If they do not have a warrant and keep pressing you, you have the right to tell them goodbye and close the door.
Get their names and call your attorney immediately.
What Happens if Police Don’t Read My Miranda Rights to Me?
If police don’t read your rights to you, if you are in police custody, and if you answer their questions, any statements that you make should be excluded from your trial.
With few exceptions (DUI cases), failure to read Miranda rights does not result in dismissal of your charges, but, if there was questioning in violation of Miranda, any responses should be excluded from trial.
The police can still use your statements as part of their investigation, and the prosecutor may be able to use your statements to impeach you if you testify and say something different on the witness stand, however.
SC Criminal Defense Lawyer in Myrtle Beach
Daniel A. Selwa is a criminal defense attorney in Myrtle Beach, SC.
Call now at (843) 492-5449 or send an email for a free consultation to discuss your case and how we can help.