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When Must You Talk to Police and When Should They Have a Warrant?

We ask an Idaho criminal defense attorney for advice

The United States Constitution protects individual rights. It guarantees your ability to remain silent and requires law enforcement officers to get a warrant in most circumstances. You may be wondering if you are ever required to talk to police or to allow a search. In this article, you will find an overview of the most important things to know about your rights and responsibilities regarding talking to the police in Idaho.

Know Your Rights: You Can Remain Silent

The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution holds that no person can be “compelled in any criminal case to be a witness” against himself or herself. Your Miranda rights arise from the Fifth Amendment. In the 1966 case of Miranda v. Arizona, the Supreme Court of the United States held that every person has the “right to remain silent” when being questioned by law enforcement.

Miranda rights apply to both pre-arrest and post-arrest situations. You are not required to answer a police officer’s questions if they approach you on the street. Likewise, you are not required to answer an officer’s questions if you have been detained and/or taken into custody. You can and should have an attorney present.

“Many people mistakenly believe they are required to speak with the police, or that speaking to the police will help their situation,” says Scott McKay, a criminal defense lawyer at Nevin, Benjamin, McKay & Bartlett in Boise. “As a general rule, a person has a right to remain silent and not answer questions asked by the police or anyone for that matter. … Often, it is wise to consult with a qualified lawyer before agreeing to speak with the police.”

The Exception: Idaho law has a narrow exception for motorists in a traffic stop. If you are pulled over in Idaho, you have a duty to present your license, registration, and proof of insurance. You are not required to answer any other question, such as “where are you going?”

Know Your Rights: Police Need a Warrant Unless an Exception Applies

The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects Americans against unreasonable searches and seizures. In most circumstances, police officers need to get a warrant before conducting a search of your person, your vehicle, or your home.

“As a general rule, I would advise a potential client to not consent to a search by the police of their home or car,” says McKay. “It can be both intrusive and frightening when the police search someone’s private spaces even if that person has done nothing wrong. For that reason, it is reasonable to require law enforcement to have a search warrant or to proceed with a search based upon an exception to the warrant requirement. With that said, someone should not try to physically prevent the police from searching their home or car, nor should they argue with the police about the basis for the search. Instead, when asked by the police for permission to search, a person should simply not voluntarily agree to allow this search.”

However, there are some key exceptions to this rule. A police officer is not required to get a warrant for a search if:

  • The person gives their consent to the search
  • There is evidence of a crime or criminal activity in plain view
  • There are emergency circumstances

If you believe that a police officer conducted an illegal search without a warrant and none of these three exceptions applied to the situation, you have the right to challenge the search. Contacting a law firm for legal advice can help you take action to get unlawfully obtained evidence thrown out of your case.

“If evidence has been obtained illegally by the police, a qualified attorney can challenge the admissibility of this evidence in court. An attorney can also seek the return of this evidence provided the evidence is not contraband,” says McKay.

Be Ready to Consult With an Idaho Criminal Defense Lawyer

There are few things more stressful or unnerving than facing criminal allegations. The sooner you consult with an Idaho criminal defense lawyer, the better position you will be in to protect your rights and secure your future. A legal advocate can help you navigate the process, including:

  • Representing you in any discussions with law enforcement
  • Ensuring that police respected your rights against illegal searches and seizures
  • Craft a comprehensive criminal defense strategy

If you or your loved one was arrested and you have any questions about talking to the police, an experienced Idaho criminal defense attorney can protect your rights. If you’d like to learn more about this area of the law, please see our criminal law overview.

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