With over 10 million Americans arrested each and every year for all kinds of crimes, from minor issues to much more serious matters, knowing how to interact with the police and how to behave when they come to your door has never been more important.
Even if you lead a perfectly lawful life, you might find yourself getting stopped by the police or questioned in relation to an event. You might find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time, for instance, or you could inadvertently get involved with a criminal situation.
In any case, regardless of the circumstances, knowing your rights is exceptionally important. Read on to see what rights you have when stopped or contacted by the police in a range of situations.
If You Get Pulled Over
If you get pulled over by the police, the officers might have noticed a problem with your vehicle or may have cause to believe that you are driving under the influence. There may be other reasons why they stopped you too, and in any case, you always have the right to remain silent.
When dealing with the police in any situation, silence is always an option, and if you happen to be a passenger in a vehicle that was pulled over, you can also ask if you’re free to leave, as the police may only want to question the driver.
In this situation, it’s imperative to stop the car quickly and safely, turning off the engine, switching on the internal light to help you find your papers, open the window, and place your hands on the wheel or dashboard.
The police officer will typically ask to see your license, registration, and insurance papers, which you should provide upon request. Try to avoid making any sudden movements and keep your hands visible at all times, just to prevent any further issues.
If the situation leads to an arrest, you have the right to remain silent and are under no obligation to say anything at all. You should contact a criminal defense attorney at the earliest opportunity and consult them before saying or signing anything.
If You Get Stopped In A Public Place
If you get stopped by the police somewhere public, you once again have the right to remain silent and are under no legal obligation to answer any questions about where you’re going or what you’re doing, nor do you need to provide any information about your nationality or citizenship, unless you’re being stopped at the border or airport.
You may be legally required to identify yourself in some states, but in terms of all additional information, you can simply declare that you are exercising your right to remain silent.
You have the right to refuse a search of yourself, but police may choose to pat you down if they suspect that you are armed. Either way, if you don’t wish to be searched, it’s still worth stating this for the record.
If you then get arrested, you’ll have the right to a court appointed lawyer or have the right to make a phone call and contact your own lawyer, who will be able to guide you through the rest of the process.
If The Police Come To Your Door
If police officers actually come to your door and ask to enter, you have the right to refuse this request and do not need to invite the officer into your home, unless they have a warrant.
You should ask them to provide identification first of all and you can ask to see a signed warrant with your address or name written on it. You can ask the officer to place the warrant under your door or hold it up to a window to be read, and even with a warrant, officers only have the right to search for certain items.
You have the right to remain silent once again and can observe the officers as they move around your home, and you can make your own notes on their actions for future referral if desired.
Knowing your rights is an important part of ensuring that any encounters you have with police proceed smoothly and correctly, with minimal risk to yourself and others. Even if a crime has been committed, it’s important to remember that you still have rights and can make the most of the liberties afforded to you to remain silent, refuse any unlawful arrests, and get in touch with a legal advisor to guide you through the remainder of the process.