An arrest happens when the police take someone into custody, usually against their choice, for goals of criminal prosecution or interrogation.

The U.S Constitution allows arrests only if the police have “probable cause” to think that a crime was committed and that the suspect is answerable.

What Is Probable Cause?

Probable cause is a legal standard that law enforcement officers use to justify making an arrest. This phrase comes from the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, which safeguards citizens against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government.

The amendment states, “No Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

To be arrested, the arresting agency, which is usually a police officer, must have a reasonable belief that someone has:

  • Committed a crime;
  • Or a reasonable suspicion;
  • Supported by circumstances to justify a belief;
  • That certain facts are true.

For police officers to make an arrest, they must prove that a crime was perpetrated and that the suspect is answerable. This proof can come in many shapes, such as witness statements, physical evidence at the crime scene, or admissions from suspects.

How Do Police Officers Arrive at Their Conclusions?

Law enforcement officers must use their best judgment when determining whether or not to make an arrest. They cannot merely arrest someone because they don’t like them or are from a different race or ethnicity.

The officer must have facts that conclude that a crime was perpetrated and that the suspect is responsible. This often includes an investigation where the officer interviews witnesses, reviews physical evidence and talks with the suspects. In some circumstances, the officer may also need to obtain a warrant before making an arrest.

What Is an Interrogation?

An interrogation is the direct questioning of a person under conditions that the questioner partly or wholly controls. A police interrogation involves persuasiveness, influence, and trickery to obtain a confession or at least an admission of anything that would implicate the suspect in illegal conduct.

Types of Police Interrogations

An interrogation can materialize at the police station, in jail, or at a crime scene.

There are two types of police interrogations:

  • Custodial interrogation: A custodial interrogation is an interrogation of a person in custody who is reasonably suspected of being directly involved in or answerable for an offense. The individual being interrogated is not free to leave police custody. Once a person is in police custody, the suspect must be read their Miranda rights if the police want to question them and use the answers as proof at trial.
  • Non-custodial interrogation (also called an interview): A non-custodial interrogation is gathering details by police from a person who is not yet officially deemed a suspect for the offense being investigated. An interviewee is not in police custody and is free to leave. A non-custodial interview does not direct the police to read the suspect’s Miranda rights to use statements as evidence at trial.

How to End a Police Interrogation

A non-custodial interrogation can be ended by exiting. If the police do not let the individual leave, the interrogation has changed from a non-custodial interrogation to a custodial one.

A custodial police interrogation may be stopped by:

  • An explicit request for an attorney
  • An explicit request to remain silent

But after either demand, if the suspect instigates a conversation, any statements made may be used against the suspect as evidence at trial.

What Is Custodial Interrogation?

Custodial interrogation refers to questioning a detained person by the police in connection with a criminal investigation. A person is deemed detained when under arrest and whenever not free to leave.

How Is Custodial Interrogation Specifically Defined?

The term “custody” generally refers to circumstances in which a person has been placed under formal arrest or if the individual’s freedom of movement has been deprived to the extent that the situation has become a formal arrest. The “reasonable person standard” determines custodial interrogation.

This means that whether a situation is a custodial interrogation is specified not by the person’s or police officer’s sentiments about whether or not the person was in custody but rather whether or not an average individual would feel free to conclude the interrogation and leave the scene.

One example would be that a person is walking down the street when the police stop that person and begin questioning them. The situation might not be deemed custodial interrogation if that individual thought that they were free to go during the questioning. But it would be deemed custodial interrogation if the police barricaded off that individual’s path or limited that individual’s movement by force while questioning them.

What Are My Rights During Custodial Interrogation?

Before questioning someone in custody, a police officer must furnish them with a Miranda warning.

A Miranda warning has the following features:

  • It informs the individual of their right to an attorney during the questioning process; and
  • It informs people that they have the right to remain silent and that anything they say can be used against them in a court of law.

Whether or not a person is in custody and whether or not they have been informed of their Miranda rights can play a significant role in how the case is resolved. Suppose a law enforcement officer does not notify people of their Miranda rights while taking them into custody. In that case, this can mean that any confessions or info acquired from the interrogation cannot be used against the person in court.

But this is not always the case as law enforcement can find other means of using this evidence in court, particularly if they have proof of the offense provided by another source. During a custodial interrogation, you have the right to stop answering questions and demand an attorney.
Suppose law enforcement continues to question or coerce you after invoking your right to an attorney. In that case, most often, any confession or evidence obtained from the interrogation will not be allowed to be used in a court of law.

Even after you have waived your right to an attorney, you can invoke this right again at any time. Nevertheless, if you change your mind during the custodial interrogation and choose to use your right to an attorney, your request must be explicit and not ambiguous. If your request is ambiguous, the police may continue the interrogation without transgressing your Miranda rights.
Once a person has communicated to the police that they do not wish to continue talking until their attorney is present, the questioning must cease. You will be provided with the chance to speak with an attorney.

After a reasonable time, the law enforcement officers may return and ask you questions again, but they can continue the questioning only when the lawyer is present. If you have not spoken to an attorney yet, you may continue to decline to answer questions until you have obtained legal aid.

When Is Law Enforcement Required to Give a Miranda Warning?

Law enforcement officers are only mandated to read Miranda warnings to an individual before custodial interrogations. They do not have to read Miranda rights every time they speak to a defendant. If an individual is not under arrest or in custody, police officers are not required to read their Miranda rights.

Should I Contact a Lawyer?

If you have inquiries about whether a police interrogation was custodial and whether your rights were observed correctly, or if you know that you were not given Miranda warnings and were improperly interrogated while in custody, it is in your best interest to contact a criminal lawyer. Use LegalMatch to find the right criminal lawyer for your needs today.