Know Your Rights!

WHAT TO DO IF STOPPED BY THE POLICE

If approached by the police, be courteous, identify yourself truthfully, and comply with the officer’s commands. You should do this even if you believe the officer is acting outside his legal authority.

If your constitutional rights have in fact been violated, you will have recourse later. While you are still in the situation, things will probably not go very well for you if you try to resist the officer. With that said, you are under absolutely no obligation to talk to theĀ  officer or answer their questions. (Although you probably should accurately identify yourself, and any statements that you do make must be truthful). In fact, the less you say then the better off you will be in the long run.

You should also be aware that you never have to give a police officer permission to search your person, your vehicle, or your dwelling. Nor do you have to allow him/her into your house unless they have a warrant that they can produce upon request. The officer may conduct the search anyway but if you give your consent, by your words or actions, you are waiving your right to assert constitutional protection against unlawful searches and seizures.

You should keep in mind that although you should never physically resist a police officer, you have no legal obligation to remain there and continue speaking to the officer unless it is clear you are being detained or have been placed under arrest. If you are in doubt as to whether or not this has happened, simply ask. If the answer is no, you are not under arrest and are not being detained, then you are free to leave at that point.

Be forewarned that if you begin behaving in the manner I have suggested the officer, or officers, involved are likely to get confrontational. In fact, if you deny him permission to conduct a search he will probably say something similar to “If you don’t let me search you/your vehicle I am going to detain you for the next several hours while I go obtain a warrant”. Let him. It’s better to be inconvenienced for a few hours than to waive any potential defenses you might have if you are charged with a crime. Besides, he may or may not be able to obtain a warrant. If he does, comply. If he does not, he will probably have no choice but to let you go at that point.

Finally, above all, be polite but be firm. The officer or officers that you are dealing with will likely try to make you think that you have no choice other than to let them do as they please. Frankly, they may do as they please anyway but that can be sorted out later in a courtroom. If you behave in the manner I have suggested the odds that you or your attorney will be able to secure a dismissal or not guilty verdict go up substantially. If you are charged with a crime you should contact my office, or another office of a competent criminal defense attorney, as soon as possible