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When police have the wrong guy

You've probably watched this scene play out on television: A cop approaches a man in public and arrests him. The man, now in handcuffs, says "You've got the wrong guy!" as he is taken off to jail in a squad car. Most of the time, the man who claims he wasn't the guy actually is the guy, and he serves time in jail for his crimes, but what happens when he isn't the guy?

According to CNN, an innocent person is arrested for a crime they didn't commit at least once per day nationwide. It happened recently to a man at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, and he is still claiming personal trouble from it today. Being released from custody after an arrest can be a lengthy process, and understanding your rights in this situation can be even more challenging if you don't know what you've done wrong.

When you know your rights after an arrest, you can better protect yourself against spending an unnecessary amount of time in jail, avoid further accusations and keep yourself from admitting to a crime you didn't commit.

Here are two rights you have to protect yourself after an arrest.

1. You have the right to remain silent.

In the television scene described above, you've probably heard police read a person their rights as they put them in handcuffs. You might even be able to recite some of it yourself. "You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in the court of law."

This statement, known in criminal justice as your Miranda Rights, is an important assertion of what you can or can't do after an arrest, though it is often glossed over because it is so routine. Police are required to read this upon arrest or evidence collected could be thrown out in court.

If you speak after an officer reads your Miranda Rights, you are effectively waiving your right to remain silent. While remaining silent in the moment can be difficult when you know the police are in the wrong, your rights remain as a reliable protection against further scrutiny from the law.

2. You have the right to an attorney.

If you are charged with a crime, it can be difficult to understand how to defend yourself properly. That is why you have the right to an attorney throughout the process. An attorney can build a case that raises reasonable doubt of the accusations against you by citing specific parts of the law in your defense.

No matter the circumstances, your rights after an arrest are crucial. Understanding how to exercise them in your favor can help protect your good social standing from the stigma of an arrest or criminal charges.

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