The Importance of Asserting Your Civil Rights During a Police Interrogation

One of our most important Constitutional rights is the Fifth Amendment right to an attorney during custodial interrogations.  If a detainee unambiguously indicates that he wishes to speak to an attorney, all questioning must cease until s/he is provided with one. If police obtain testimony or other evidence as a result of an interrogation during which a detainee’s right to counsel has been violated, it may be excluded from evidence. A 49-year-old man named Jeffrey Hudak recently filed a lawsuit against the Pennsylvania State Police Department for alleged violations of this important right. Hudak’s lawsuit claims he was arrested by troopers in SWAT gear who surrounded his mother’s home, where Hudak was staying. The raid and subsequent arrest was apparently made based solely on speculation that Hudak ambushed two police officers because one of the officers had an ongoing relationship with Hudak’s estranged wife[2]. Hudak claims he was subjected to a lengthy and traumatizing interrogation following his arrest[3].

According to the lawsuit, police denied Hudak’s request for an attorney and continued questioning him. Hudak’s attorney stated that the interrogation lasted from about 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Hudak’s sister arranged for an attorney to be present during questioning, the questioning was nearly over by the time the attorney was allowed to see Hudak. In addition, Hudak was allegedly denied restroom use until he provided a DNA sample. If Hudak’s allegations are true, his civil rights were egregiously violated.

If you have been detained by law enforcement, be aware of your rights and protect yourself. The Fifth Amendment guarantees the detained a right to an attorney. If detained, immediately invoke the right to an attorney and cease answering questions until the attorney arrives. Know that once that request is made, an attorney must be present at all times during interrogation unless the detainee waives that right[4].


By Ara M. Baghdassarian, Esq., Barnes Law

Ara M. Baghdassarian is an associate attorney with Barnes Law, licensed to practice law in California.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the firm, its clients, or any of its or their respective affiliates. This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice.

[1] U.S. Const. amend. V.;


[3] Hudak was released shortly after the interrogation and a different suspect is currently in jail awaiting trial for the ambush.

[4] A detainee who has invoked his right to counsel during interrogation can waive that right by initiating further communication, exchanges, or conversations with the police. (Edwards v. Arizona (1981) 451 U.S. 477, 485. )