What Should I Do If I am Stopped, Searched or Questioned by Police?

If you have a police encounter, you CAN protect your rights. What you say to police officers is always important as everything you say can be used against you in court. You never have to consent to a search of yourself, your personal property, your car or your house. If you consent to a search, it can negatively affect your rights later in court. You will need to stay calm and in control of your words, body language, and emotions. Most importantly, you will not be able to argue your way out of being arrested.

If the police say they have a warrant, ask to see it. If they do not have a search warrant, simply say “I do not consent to this search.” Police cannot arrest you for refusing to consent to a search. This may not stop the search from happening but it will protect your rights if you have to go to court.

If you are stopped in a car, keep your hands visible. You should not reach for your driver’s license or registration until the officer makes the request.

Remember that if officers allege that they smell marijuana (even if it is decriminalized in Virginia), they will have probable cause to search anywhere marijuana may be recovered (which is practically any place in the vehicle.) While you are in he vehicle, be sure not to consent to a search of it or of your person.

Also, if you are suspected of drunk driving, the police officer will order you to exit the vehicle and take a breath and coordination field sobriety test. If you fail the tests or refuse to take them, the officer will arrest you and your car may be towed. If you are arrested, you will be searched incident to arrest and your car will also be subject to a search.

If the police come to your home, they may enter it without your permission if they have a search warrant or if it is an emergency. If the police say they have a search warrant, you should ask to see it and check that the warrant has the correct address. Furthermore, if you are arrested in your home or office, the police can search you and the area immediately surrounding you where evidence of criminal activity is in plain view.

If you are arrested and taken to a police station for questioning, you have the right to remain silent and the right to talk to a lawyer before you speak with police. However, you must affirmatively exercise this right and courts will not interpret your silence as a proper method of invoking your right to remain silent. Simply say “I want a lawyer and will not be making any statements without one.” Do not give the police any explanations, excuses or try to “tell your side of the story.” Invoke your rights and shut down the interrogation right away.

It is important to keep in mind that in Virginia, children and teenagers DO NOT have any added protections and law enforcement officers do not need to advise parents or guardians that juveniles are in custody or wait for them to be present during police questioning.

You also have a right to make a local call and when you make this phone call, you should never talk about the facts of the case over the telephone as your conversation will be recorded. Finally, while you are at the police station, do not make any decisions in your case, sign any statements, or agree to provide any recorded statement without counsel present.

If you are stopped by the police and charged with a crime, contact LeCruise Law before your court hearing to make sure that your rights are protected.