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Do Police Have to Advise You of Your Rights During a “Consensual” Encounter?

A police officer is not always required to advise you of your rights before speaking with you. Maryland courts distinguish between arrests, investigatory stops, and consensual encounters. The first requires probable cause that a person committed (or is committing) a crime. The second only requires “reasonable suspicion” to justify a brief detention. The third requires neither and describes an “accosting” where an officer simply asks for basic information, such as a person’s name or destination.

Maryland Court Finds “Mere Accosting” Does Not Rise to the Level of Detaining a Suspect

Legally speaking, an officer is not required to advise a person of their right to remain silent before or during a consensual encounter. Of course, a person may not realize the encounter was consensual at the time. And this can have significant legal consequences if that person is ultimately charged with a crime.

A recent unreported decision from the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, In Re: KG, provides a practical illustration. This case involved a 13-year-old juvenile charged with multiple assaults. There were three such alleged assaults, each involving different accusers on different days.

A police officer investigating the stabbings spotted the juvenile, who was wearing clothing that matched two of the accusers’ descriptions. The officer decided to approach the juvenile and started asking him basic questions like his name and “How’s it going?” The officer also asked the juvenile about a bandage on his finger and where he was the previous day. The officer said he never touched the juvenile or blocked his path, and the juvenile ultimately walked away.

The next day, the police executed a search warrant for the juvenile’s home. At this point, the police did take the juvenile into custody and advised him of his rights. The juvenile said he understood those rights and proceeded to speak with the police about the alleged stabbings.

Before the juvenile court, the minor’s counsel moved to suppress the statements made to the police during the initial encounter with the officer as well as the subsequent interrogation. The court denied the motion to suppress. It held that the initial meeting between the officer and the juvenile was “at best” an investigatory stop. And after the juvenile was taken into custody, he voluntarily waived his right to remain silent.

The Court of Special Appeals largely agreed with the juvenile court’s ruling. The only thing it took exception with was categorizing the initial encounter as an investigatory stop. The appellate court said it did not even rise to the level. Rather, this was a “mere accosting,” as the officers approached the juvenile on a public street without displaying any force. The juvenile was free to leave at any time, which he did. Under those circumstances, there was no detention and the officers did not have to advise the juvenile of his rights before asking him questions.

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This article has been provided by the Law Office of Robert Castro. For more information or questions contact our office to speak to an experienced lawyer at (301) 705-5137.