Whether you are out with friends, in your home, or driving your car, you should know your rights when dealing with law enforcement stopping or questioning you or someone you are with. To be prepared, here are three common situations.
If you are in public:
- You have the right to ask why you are being stopped and if you are under arrest. You do not have to answer their questions (except to identify yourself) and can exercise your right to remain silent.
- The police need reasonable suspicion to detain a person, and probable cause to arrest them, so do not give them information that could incriminate you. Ask if you are free to go.
- You do not have to consent to a search of yourself or your belongings. Police may conduct a frisk or pat search if they believe you are carrying a weapon. Continue to make it clear that you did not consent to the search, but do not physically resist.
- Do not run, resist, or give the officers false information. This can escalate a situation and be used against you if you are arrested.
If you are in your vehicle:
- While you do not have to answer their questions, you are required to show your driver’s license and proof of insurance upon request.
- You have a right to ask why you are being stopped, questioned, detained, or arrested.
- You do not have to consent to a search your car. Police may search a car if they have a warrant, or if they have probable cause to believe it contains contraband or evidence of a crime. Continue to make it clear that you did not consent to the search, but do not physical resist or otherwise interfere with the search.
- If they do not have cause to keep you there, then you do not have to stay. Ask whether you are free to go.
If you are in your home:
- You are not required to allow the officers into your home unless they have a warrant signed by a judge, so ask to see it.
- You have a right to remain silent and do not have to answer their questions. Ask if you are being arrested or detained and whether you are free to go.
Overall, also remember:
- Unless you are at an international border or airport (which have different rules), you do not have to answer questions about your citizenship status, how you entered the country, or where you were born.
- In situations where police may be acting illegally or escalating a situation, whether or not you are the one being questioned, you can record the events with your phone for evidence. Police are not allowed to confiscate any videos or photos taken without a warrant. You do not have the right to interfere with or obstruct them.
In all of these cases, you have a right to legal representation. If police detain or arrest you, do not give them any information they can use against you. Choose to remain silent and ask for legal representation. Our experienced defense attorneys can help you or someone you know if they have been arrested for a crime.