We all recognize the need for effective law enforcement, but we should also understand our own rights and responsibilities – especially in our interactions with the police.
If You Have a Police Encounter, You Can Protect Your Rights
- What you say to the police is always important. Everything you say can be used against you.
- You have the right to speak. To exercise this right, you should tell the police, “I would like to remain silent.”
- You never have to consent to a search of yourself, your belongings, your car or your house. If you do consent to a search, it can affect your rights later in court. If the police say they have a search warrant, ask to see it. If they don’t, say “I do not consent to this search.” Police cannot arrest you simply 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.
- Do not interfere with or obstruct the police – you can be arrested for it.
If You Are Stopped, Questioned, and/or Frisked
- Police may stop and briefly detain you only if there is reasonable suspicion that you committed, are committing or are about to commit a crime.
- You should ask if you are under arrest or free to leave.
- Don’t bad-mouth a police officer or run away, even if you believe what is happening is unreasonable. That could lead to your arrest.
If You Are Stopped in a Car
- Keep your hands visible. Do not attempt to reach for your driver’s license or registration until requested.
- Upon request, show the police your driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance.
- Do not consent to a search of your vehicle or your person.
- If you’re suspected of drunk driving (DUI/DWI), you will be asked to take a breath-alcohol and coordination test. If you fail the tests, or if you refuse to take them, you will be arrested, your driver’s license may be suspended and your car may be towed away.
- If you are arrested, your car will be subject to a search.
If Police Come to Your Home
- The police can enter your home without your permission if they have a warrant or if it is an emergency. If the police say they have a warrant, ask to see it. Check to make sure the warrant has the correct address.
- If you are arrested in your home or office, the police can search you and the area immediately surrounding you or where evidence of criminal activity is in plain view.
If You Are Arrested or Taken to a Police Station
- You have the right to remain silent and the right to talk to a lawyer before you talk to the police. Don’t tell the police anything except your name and address. Don’t give any explanations, excuses or stories. You can make your defense later, in court, based on what you and your lawyer decide is best.
- You have a right to make a local phone call. Never talk about the facts of your case over the telephone as your conversation will be recorded.
- Do not make any decisions in your case or sign any statements until you have talked with a lawyer.
What To Do If You’re Stopped by the Police
- Stay calm and in control of your words, body language and emotions.
- Don’t get into an argument with the police.
- Never bad-mouth a police officer.
- Remember, anything you say or do can be used against you.
- Keep your hands where the police can see them.
- Don’t run.
- Don’t touch any police officer.
- Don’t resist even if you believe you are innocent.
- If you are arrested, ask for a lawyer immediately.
- Remember officers’ badge numbers, patrol car numbers, and physical descriptions.
- Write down everything you remember ASAP.
- Try to find witnesses and their names and phone numbers.
- If you are injured, take photos of the injuries as soon as possible, but make sure you get medical attention first. Ask for copies of your medical treatment files.
If you are stopped by the police and charged with a criminal offense, contact a criminal defense attorney who can make sure your rights are protected. Contact LeCruise Law.
(Adapted From The American Civil Liberties Union What To Do When You’re Stopped By Police pamphlet)