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Arrested at a Protest? What Are Your Rights?

By Aditi Mukherji, JD | Last updated on

When you're arrested at a protest, what are your rights?

From answering questions to videotaping police, there are certain rights every protester has when he or she is being hauled away in handcuffs.

Here are five constitutional rights every protester should know when it comes to getting arrested:

  1. Right to be Mirandized. When police have you "in custody" -- meaning you aren't free to leave -- and are about to fire off some questions, you have a right to have your Miranda rights read to you. If police fail to read you these rights, anything you say during questioning may be deemed inadmissible evidence.
  2. Right to remain silent. As you know from your Miranda rights, you can invoke your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent. Remember, even idle conversation can lead to legally permissive evidence against yourself. To play it safe, channel your inner Simon & Garfunkel and embrace "The Sound of Silence."
  3. Right to request an attorney. After you've been arrested, police officers may continue to question you until you explicitly tell (as opposed to ask) the police that you want to speak to your criminal defense attorney.
  4. Right to videotape police. While you may have a First Amendment right to openly videotape police, it's a crime to resist arrest. So make sure your camera (or your fellow protester's camera) isn't getting in the way of any police procedure. If you're somehow able to continue recording after being arrested, hold the camera at a low level, keep it close to your body, and be polite -- that will cut against the appearance of interfering with police work. Do not record the police secretly -- that's against the law, as Gizmodo points out.
  5. Right to representation. You can hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to represent you at the arraignment and present arguments regarding bail. The whole process, from arrest to release on bail, should take about 24 to 36 hours, as the ACLU has explained.

For more guidance, especially if you feel your rights as a protester have been violated, you may want to speak to a civil rights attorney near you.

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