In Maryland, Do Police Have to Tell You Why They Are Arresting You?

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Many suspects believe the police have to tell you why they are arresting you. This is a common misconception. In Maryland, police do not have to give details, although it’s considered to be good practice.

You will find out more about the allegations against you when an official charges you. If a police officer arrests you, it’s important to protect your rights. Police officers should read you your rights at the time of your arrest. However, failing to give you explanations is not a good reason for resisting arrest in Maryland.

Baltimore criminal defense lawyer Randolph Rice considers the question ‘do the police have to tell you why they are arresting you?’

What Information Should Police Give You When They Are Arresting You in Maryland?

Police will typically say you are under arrest. An officer may or may not tell you what they are arresting you for at this point. Arresting officers should also read suspects their Miranda Rights.

The Miranda Rights are rooted in the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Police should read you a Miranda warning when you are arrested or taken into custody. The Miranda warning has four main planks. A police officer will tell you:

  1. You have the right to remain silent;
  2. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law;
  3. You have the right to a criminal defense lawyer;
  4. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.

You may hear your Miranda Rights referred to as “reading you your rights.” There is no requirement to respond. Avoid divulging any information related to your case. You can ask an officer for clarification about the charges but there’s no guarantee he or she will tell you.

What Are Miranda Rights?

The Miranda Rights are rooted in the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution. However, they are named after the 1966 case of Miranda v. Arizona, a landmark U.S. Supreme Court hearing. In 1963, police picked up Ernesto Miranda in his home. They brought him to the police station where he was interrogated by police officers investigating a kidnapping and rape. The police obtained a written confession from Miranda two hours later. A court allowed the written confession to be admitted into evidence at Miranda’s trial notwithstanding the objection of the defense attorney. Defense counsel pointed out police officers did not advise Miranda of his right to have an attorney present during the interrogation.

The U.S. Supreme Court justices said the Fifth Amendment requires that police advise suspects of their right to remain silent and to have an attorney during interrogations while they are held in police custody.

The court concluded a defendant cannot be questioned by police via a custodial interrogation unless he or she is first made aware of the right to remain silent, the right to consult a lawyer and to have legal counsel present during questioning.

If a police officer or a detective obtain information without reading a Miranda warning or the defendant does not waive their rights, any statements made can be excluded at a subsequent trial. This is known as the exclusionary rule.

It’s wise to follow the Miranda rules. No matter how unhappy you may be about your arrest, you should remain silent and not argue your innocence.

Do the Miranda Rights Require Police to Tell You Why They Are Arresting You?

No. Most states do not require police to inform you of the reason for your arrest. One exception is New York State which has a law stating police should tell you of the purpose and the reason for your arrest unless they encounter physical resistance or a fight. Other factors could render it impractical.

The U.S. Supreme Court tackled the issue of what a police officer should tell you about your arrest in the 2004 case of Devonpeck v. Alford. Tony Alford was driving in his car in Washington State when police pulled him over. Officers thought Alford was impersonating a police officer. They searched his car and found a tape recorder containing a recording of the traffic stop. The police arrested Alford. They claimed he made an illegal recording of a private conversation in breach of the state’s Privacy Act. A state court judge dismissed the charges against Alford. The judge said the Privacy Act was not relevant to public police work.

Alford sued the police. He claimed his arrest violated the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizure. The U.S. Supreme Court considered whether an arrest violates the Fourth Amendment if a police officer has probable cause to make an arrest for one offense but tells the suspect he is being picked up for another. The justices ruled the arrest was not unlawful. They concluded police had probable cause to arrest Alford for impersonating a police officer. It did not matter that they informed him of a different offense during his arrest. The justices said a warrantless arrest is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment when police have probable cause to believe a crime has been or is being committed.

The U.S. Supreme Court stated it’s “good police practice” to let a suspect know why he or she is being taken into custody in the case. However, the Miranda Rules don’t require police to tell you why they are arresting you, nor is there any other constitutional provision.

Many police departments in Maryland have procedures that include telling suspects why they are being stopped or arrested. Baltimore County Government points out police officers will generally.

  • Give their name on request.
  • Identify themselves when taking action if they are in plain clothes;
  • Inform a person the reason why they are being stopped or questioned.
  • Only use the amount of force necessary to arrest the suspect.

Many police department policies are ambiguous. If you have been arrested, you will likely find out soon enough why. You can ask questions or hire a criminal defense lawyer to do it on your behalf.

Ask a Maryland Criminal Defense Lawyer if Police Don’t Tell You Why The Are Arresting You

Hiring an experienced criminal defense lawyer is the best way to find out details about your arrest as soon as possible. At the Rice, Murtha & Psoras, our attorney has decades of experience in Maryland’s courts and criminal justice system. We seek answers for clients on a daily basis and fight for their innocence. Call our Dundalk-based criminal defense team for a free and confidential consultation at (410) 431-9011.


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