Every Virginian has seen it at least once in movies or TV shows: Police arrest a suspect, read them their Miranda rights and later take them to a tiny, windowless room down at the station for a lengthy interrogation.

When you’re suspected of a felony, the situation ceases to be Hollywood drama and can become a frightening reality.

It’s vital that you understand the meaning of the Miranda warning that police typically give suspects, which is an explanation of your rights under the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Police often recite something like: 

  • “You have the right to remain silent.”
  • “Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.”
  • “You have the right to an attorney.”
  • “If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.”

If you’re arrested or facing police questioning, it’s important you know that under your right to remain silent, the only information you have to tell the police is your full name and your address. Ask to see your lawyer, but other than that, it’s usually in your best interest to keep your mouth shut no matter what police ask you or tell you.

Beware these interrogation tactics

There are many methods — shady though legal — that police may use during interrogations in an effort to get you to incriminate yourself or to confess. Cops can outright lie to you, such as telling you they found your fingerprints at the crime scene or saying a witness is going to testify against you. They can make up fake evidence, misrepresent real evidence or use other trickery to get you to think you’ve been implicated in the crime worse than you truly have been.

However, police are not allowed to coerce you physically or psychologically by using techniques like torture, drugs, threats, or other inhumane treatment. If it’s known that police used unlawfully coercive methods in their interrogation, any confession or evidence that came as a result of the coercion will be deemed inadmissible in the courtroom.

Get legal help as soon as possible

Even if the police are acting entirely within the bounds of the law, interrogations can be quite an ordeal, lasting hours, and you can feel an intense pressure to say something — anything — just to get out of there. But you need to resist the pressure, keep silent and protect your rights. Have a skilled Virginia lawyer who has experience in criminal defense by your side to see that you get the fairest treatment possible under the law.