What Are My Rights If the Police Stop Me?

Many people who are stopped by the police in different circumstances don’t know what to say or do. Some people ask questions like, “What should I say if I am stopped by the police?”, “How do I act if I am stopped by the police?”, or “What do I do if the police show up at my home?”. The following article from the American Civil Liberties Union tells you what your rights are if you are stopped by a law enforcement officer.

What To Do If You're Stopped By the Police, Immigration Agents, or the FBI

We rely on the police to keep us safe and treat us all fairly, regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, or religion. This article provides tips for interacting with the police and understanding your rights.

YOUR RIGHTS

  • You have the right to remain silent. If you wish to exercise that right, say so out loud.
  • You have the right to refuse to consent to a search of yourself, your car, or your home.
  • If you are not under arrest or detained, you have the right to leave the area.
  • You have the right to a lawyer if you have been arrested and are being questioned. Ask for one immediately.
  • Regardless of your immigration or citizenship status, you have constitutional rights.

YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES

  • Stay calm and be polite.
  • Do not interfere with or obstruct the police.
  • Do not lie or give false documents to the police.
  • Remember the details of your encounter with law enforcement.

IF YOU ARE STOPPED FOR QUESTIONING

Stay calm. Don't run. Don't argue, resist, or obstruct the police, even if you are innocent or the police are violating your rights. Keep your hands where the police can see them.

Ask if you are free to leave. If the officer says yes, calmly and silently walk away. If you are under arrest, you have a right to know why.

You have the right to remain silent and cannot be punished for refusing to answer questions. If you wish to remain silent, tell the officer out loud.

You do not have to consent to a search of yourself or your belongings, but an officer may pat down your outer clothing if he reasonably suspects that you have a weapon on your person. You should not physically resist, but you have the right to refuse consent for any further search. If you do consent, it can affect you later in court if the police find something incriminating.

IF YOU ARE STOPPED IN YOUR CAR

Stop the car in a safe place as quickly as possible. Turn off the car, turn on the internal light, open the window part way, and place your hands on the wheel.

Upon request, show the officer your driver's license, registration, and proof of insurance.

If an officer or immigration agent asks to look inside your car, you can refuse to consent to the search. But if the officer reasonably believes that your car contains evidence of a crime, your car can be searched without your consent.

Both drivers and passengers have the right to remain silent. If you are a passenger, you can ask if you are free to leave. If the officer says yes, sit silently and calmly leave. But even if the officer says no, you still have the right to remain silent.

IF YOU ARE QUESTIONED ABOUT YOUR IMMIGRATION STATUS

You have the right to remain silent and not discuss your immigration or citizenship status with the police, immigration agents, or any other law enforcement officer. You do not have to answer questions about where you were born, whether you are a U.S. citizen, or how you entered the country. (Separate rules apply, however, at international borders and airports, as well as for individuals having certain nonimmigrant visas, including tourists and business travelers.)

If you are not a U.S. citizen and an immigration agent requests your immigration papers, you must show them if you have them with you. If you are 18 years or older, you should carry your immigration documents with you at all times. If you do not have immigration papers, tell the agent that you want to remain silent.

Do not lie about your citizenship status or provide false documents. For more questions you should contact an immigration attorney who knows what your rights are.

IF THE POLICE OR IMMIGRATION AGENTS COME TO YOUR HOME

If the police or immigration agents come to your home, you do not have to let them in unless they have certain kinds of warrants.

Ask the officer to slip the warrant under the door or hold it up to the window so you can read it. A search warrant allows police to enter the address listed on the warrant, but officers can only search the specific areas and items listed in the warrant. An arrest warrant allows the police to enter the home of the person listed on the warrant if they reasonably believe the person is inside. However, a deportation warrant (ICE warrant) does not allow agents to enter your home without your consent.

Even if officers have a warrant, you have the right to remain silent. If you choose to speak to the officers, step outside and close the door behind you so that they cannot look into your home.

IF YOU ARE ARRESTED

Do not resist arrest, even if you believe that you are being illegally arrested.

Tell the officer that you wish to remain silent, and ask for a lawyer immediately. Don't give any explanations or excuses. If you can't pay for a lawyer, you have the right to a free one. Don't say anything, sign anything, or make any decisions without a lawyer.

You have the right to make a local phone call. The police are not allowed to listen to your conversation with a lawyer, but they can listen in if you call someone besides a lawyer, so be careful what you say on the phone.

If you know of a reason why you might be arrested, prepare yourself and your family in case that were to happen. Memorize the telephone numbers of your family members and your lawyer. Make emergency plans if you have children or take medication.

SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS FOR NON-CITIZENS:

  • Ask your lawyer about the effect of a criminal conviction on your immigration status.
  • Don't discuss your immigration status with anyone but your lawyer.
  • While you are in jail, an immigration agent may visit you. Do not answer questions or sign anything before speaking with a lawyer.
  • Thoroughly read all documents that an agent gives you to sign. If you do not understand or cannot read those documents, tell the officer you need an interpreter.

IF YOU ARE TAKEN INTO IMMIGRATION (OR "ICE") CUSTODY

You have the right to a lawyer, but the government does not have to provide one for you. If you do not have a lawyer, ask for a list of free or low-cost legal services.

You have the right to contact your consulate or have an officer inform the consulate of your arrest.

Tell the ICE agent you wish to remain silent. Do not discuss your immigration status with anyone but your lawyer.

Do not sign anything, such as a voluntary departure or stipulated removal, without talking to a lawyer. If you sign one, you may be giving up your opportunity to try to stay in the U.S.

Remember your immigration number ("A" number) and give it to your family. It will help them locate you.

Keep a copy of your immigration documents with someone you trust.

IF YOU FEEL YOUR RIGHTS HAVE BEEN VIOLATED

Remember: police misconduct cannot be challenged on the street. Don't physically resist officers or threaten to file a complaint.

After the police are finished, write down everything you remember about the incident, including the officers' badge and patrol car numbers, which agency the officer was from, and any other details. Get contact information for witnesses. If you are injured, take photographs of your injuries, but seek medical attention first.

File a written complaint with the agency's internal affairs division or civilian complaint board. In most cases, you can file a complaint anonymously if you wish.

If you feel your rights have been violated or are facing criminal charges in Florida and wish to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney call me, Ron Chapman at 561-832-4348 or visit my West Palm Beach law office online. I will gladly discuss the details of your case with you and see how I can help defend your rights. Call today so we can get started.

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