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What If You Are Arrested


When can you be arrested?

You can be arrested in Rhode Island if a judge has issued an arrest warrant which directs the police to take you into custody. If an arrest warrant has not been issued, you may be arrested if a police officer has reasonable ground to believe you have committed or are committing a felony. You may be arrested without a warrant for committing a misdemeanor if a police officer has reasonable ground to believe you have committed or are committing a misdemeanor, and believes either that you cannot be arrested at a later time, or that you may cause injury to yourself, to another person, or to property if not arrested immediately.

You may also be arrested if you have failed to appear for a criminal court date when you were required to do so. If you have failed to appear, the judge may issue a bench warrant and you may be arrested by the police and brought to the court that issued the warrant.

Resisting arrest

Rhode Island law states that police may not use greater restraint or force than is necessary in making an arrest. The law also states that it is unlawful for any person to use force or any weapon to resist a legal or an illegal arrest by a police officer. Even if you feel that the police are acting illegally by arresting you, either because they are wrong or mistaken, you may not resist that arrest. If you do resist, you may be charged with "resisting arrest" regardless of whether the original arrest by the police was legal.

Temporary detention

Police officers in Rhode Island may legally detain a person for up to two hours if they are reasonably suspicious that a person is committing, has committed, or is about to commit a crime. The police may demand that person's name and address, and may inquire about that person's activities. If the person fails to identify himself or herself and explain his or her actions to the satisfaction of the police, he or she may be detained for further investigation. This detention is not considered to be an arrest, and at the end of the period of time the person must be released unless charged with a crime.

"You have the right to remain silent..."

Many people have the mistaken impression that the police must advise individuals of their Miranda rights immediately after the arrest. The police must advise you of your rights if they want to question you after you have been placed in custody.

The police must advise you of the following rights if they wish to speak with you once you have been placed in custody:

· You have the right to remain silent.

· If you give up the right to remain silent, anything you say may be used against you in court.

· You have the right to speak with an attorney prior to questioning, and have that attorney present during any interview.

· If you wish to speak with an attorney but cannot afford one, one will be appointed for you free of charge.

If you wish to speak with the police, you may waive, or give up these rights. You are never required to waive any rights, and your decision not to waive any rights' cannot be held against you.

The police may also ask you if you will consent to let them search your property. You may allow the police to search your property, but you do not have to let them. If you do not consent to their search, they usually must ask a judge to issue a search warrant.

It is possible that the police arrest you, but do not ever attempt to question you. If that is the case, they are never required to advise you of these rights.

Your right to counsel

If you have been arrested, and the police want to question you, they are required to advise you of your right to an attorney before you answer any questions. If you cannot afford an attorney, the Department of Public Defender exists to represent you. Once you tell the police that you DO NOT WANT to talk with them until you have had a chance to speak with a lawyer, they must stop questioning you at once.

Your right to a telephone call

Rhode Island law states that you have a right to make a telephone call to secure a lawyer or to arrange for bail as soon as practicable after your arrest. The period of time, however, shall not exceed one hour. This telephone call shall be carried out in such a manner as to provide confidentiality between yourself and the person you call.

Your right to bail

If you are charged with a crime, you will be brought before a judge or a bail commissioner, and advised of the charge that you will be facing. You will also be advised of a date, or dates, that you must return to court. At your first appearance, the court will consider whether to release you on bail, and the type of bail to be set.

In Rhode Island, there are two forms of bail in common use - personal recognizance and surety bail. Most people are released on personal recognizance, which is your personal promise to appear in court on a scheduled date, and not to violate the law in the meantime. Surety bail takes several forms, the most common of which involve posting cash bail, posting a deed to real estate, or hiring a professional bail bondsman.

Not all people charged with crimes are entitled to bail. If you are arrested for a crime while you are on probation, while you are on bail for another crime, for a capital crime, or for certain drug offenses, you may be held without bail at the state prison until a bail hearing is held in court. After a hearing, you may be released on bail, or held for trial depending upon the findings of the court.

If you are released on bail, the most important thing to remember is that you must return to court on the scheduled date. You must appear on the return date even if you have not been able to hire an attorney, to explain your situation to the court.



This piece is produced as a public service by the Rhode Island Bar
Association and intended to provide background information. This is not a
substitute for legal advice and representation by a licensed attorney of the
Rhode Island Bar.