Your Rights When Getting Arrested in NJ


To be questioned or get arrested by the police can at first be a shocking and complicated experience. Fully understanding your responsibilities as a person, rights as a citizen, and the United State’s legal system can make your current situation smoother and save you from future ordeals with the law.

First, remember to stay calm and never panic whenever dealing with law enforcement. The U.S. Constitution stipulates that every person within the United State’s borders is protected by rights under the U.S. legal system. The 4th Amendment stipulates protection from unreasonable searches and seizures and the 5th Amendment protects against unfair treatment in legal processes.

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Can the police question me for no reason?

A police officer has the right to approach and question any person. Always remember to stay tranquil, keep your hands visible, and observe and comply with reasonable requests made by the police in order to have the smoothest conduct. Providing identification is a common and acceptable request; other than that, you have the right to decide whether to answer any other questions being asked. In order to avoid further interrogation, you can ask the officer if you are under arrest and, if so, for what crime. If you are not under arrest you have the right to leave the inquiring. Nonetheless, the police can detain you if they have a warrant for your arrest or have reason to suspect that you have broken the law or committed an offense. 

What if they ask to search me?

When asked for any type of search, respond immediately with the question, “Do you have a warrant?” If the police have a warrant, request a copy and then you must comply with a search. However, most police will not have a warrant–but people who are unfamiliar with the legal system can be subjected to bullying tactics by the police in order to legally get your consent for a search of your person, papers, car, or home. In reality, when a police officer doesn’t have a warrant, he/she only has the right to conduct a light pat down if you are suspected to be armed. Otherwise, you have the right to deny all searches.

Are police officers allowed to touch me?

Yes, a police officer can use reasonable levels of touching such as a pat down, and in some cases reasonable force to affect an arrest. If a police officer states that you are under arrest, you must follow the officer’s instructions and not resist any attempts to handcuff or restrain you. If you resist or become violent, officers have authority to use higher levels of force in arresting you. Remember that the police are enforcers of the law and if the situation calls for it, they have some flexibility in order to effectively preform their job.

What are my rights after being arrested?

If you have been arrested, by law, a police officer must tell you your Miranda Rights.

  • You have the right to remain silent. Stay calm and tell law enforcement that you wish to exercise your legal right to remain silent.  A police officer must stop questioning you if you exercise this right. You have to understand that after an arrest, the main objective of the police is to gather as much evidence to build a case against you. The police have numerous interrogation tactics, but always remember, it is always in your best interest to remain silent in order to prevent self-incrimination. The only information you are required to provide is your name and address. Any other information you say can be used against you in the court of law. 
  • You have the right to an attorney. Upon being arrested, immediately request an attorney, remain silent, don’t sign any documents, and perform all remaining reasonable requests by the officer. Only an attorney is best equipped to defend you against interrogation and the case built against you, so get in contact with one as soon as possible. If proven that you cannot afford an attorney, an attorney will be provided to you by the court for free or with an affordable fee to you. 

How long can the cops detain me?

Once arrested, you will be taken to the local police station. When entering the facility, a booking officer will process you which consists of asking you standard personal questions, possibly taking your photograph, fingerprinting you, and gathering your belongings to be put in a property bag.  Usually within 24 hours of your arrest you will be given a notice to appear in court, a warning, released, or charged with an offense.

Am I allowed to make a phone call?

After you are processed you will be allowed a phone call. Usually by the time you are allowed to make a phone call, an officer will inform you when you can be released and if you need to post bail. 

What should I do if I am being pulled over?

Always be sure to safely stop your vehicle as quickly as possible. Turn off the car and open your window part way. If it is dark outside, turn on your internal dome light and keep your hands where they can be seen by the officer. Remember that when law enforcement approaches your vehicle they are cautious and worried for their own safety, so refrain from any sudden movements and comply to all reasonable requests by the officer. Upon request only, provide law enforcement with your license and registration. The officer will then explain the reason for pulling your over. Remember to be polite and on your best behavior when engaged with an officer in order for a smooth procedure.

What if I am caught with drugs?

Under N.J.S.A. 39:4-49.1 it is unlawful to operate a motor vehicle while knowingly possessing a controlled dangerous substance or any prescription drug without a valid prescription. This is a motor vehicle offense and not a criminal charge. If you are found guilty of this offense, the court will suspend your license for a period of up to two years.

Sometimes called simple possession, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10 (a)(4) states that it is “unlawful for any person, knowingly or purposely, to obtain, or to possess, actually or constructively a controlled dangerous substance…[and that] (4) Possession of 50 grams or less of marijuana” is a disorderly persons offense that carries heavy fines and up to 6 months in jail. If you are arrested and charged with possession in a school zone, the court can impose additional penalties. A disorderly person’s offense will be on your criminal record.

If you are arrested or being charged with a drug offense, a lawyer can review the facts of your case and determine whether your Constitutional rights under the 4th amendment have been violated. There are various defensive strategies that lawyers can use to protect your rights and to win your case. If you have any questions about a traffic ticket or being arrested or charged with a drug related crime please call the Rosenblum Law Firm today at (888) 815-3649 or contact us online.