The Rights of Citizens at the Time of an Arrest

In the past several months, America has reopened old wounds in relation to race and violence against citizens by law enforcement officials. We, as a country, have seen probable suspects shot or killed by police officers in the course of an arrest or while fleeing from police officers. Largely, the news has been about individuals of minority backgrounds killed by police officers who have utilized too much force or violent measures to control the suspect during an arrest. These shootings are a tragedy for law-abiding citizens. However, the shootings have also greatly affected the reputation of police officers who serve the public.

It does not matter if these shootings occurred in South Carolina, Oklahoma, Florida or New York. We have seen one news account after the next in relation to black men who have suffered death during the course of an arrest.

In Missouri, the shooting of Michael Brown was found to be allowable after a grand jury investigation. However, the opposite has been found true in South Carolina where the officer, who shot his unarmed suspect, has recently been arrested. The most important thing that has come out of this is that we are all aware that the over militarization of a police force may result in tragedy during the course of an arrest.

Everyone is aware of the standard Miranda Rights, which are oftentimes read aloud during the course of an arrest. These rights are simple, and we have all heard them on TV. These rights are:

  • You have a right to remain silent;
  • If you do say anything, it can and will be held against you in a court of law;
  • You have the right to have an attorney present during questioning;
  • If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be appointed for you, if you so desire.

While these warnings are given to individuals at the time of an arrest, what we have seen is, oftentimes, individuals do not have the opportunity to even have these rights read aloud to them because they are either fleeing an arrest or violently attempting to resist being taken into custody.

Obviously, in a perfect world, when the police encounter suspects, these people would peacefully surrender at the time of their arrest. However, we do not live in a perfect world. Oftentimes, police have to make split-second decisions. Tragically, we have recently seen that those split -second decisions result in loss. This loss is not just of the life of the individual who dies, but also the loss of the trusting relationship that a community may have with the police force.

Who knows where this will ultimately end. Several new measures are being proposed, including body cameras and the use of more non-lethal force, such as tasers. Certainly, this discussion will not end. The national spotlight is now shining on the police forces in every single community, including those in Pennsylvania.

We support our local police force, whether it’s in a small town or on the state or federal level. We push for rules, regulations and training that encourage nonlethal measures and justified shootings if, and only if, they are necessary for fear of serious bodily injury to the police officer or others.

As an ex-prosecutor, I can tell you I am dismayed. I look forward to a better day when our communities can live in peace and when law-abiding citizens can work with the police to reduce the overall crime rates.

If you have any questions about this article or would like to speak to an attorney in any capacity, I can be reached at and

Staff Writer

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