There are many situations that you may be stopped by the police. Whether you are in public or a vehicle, the police may decide to stop you either because they suspect you of wrongdoing or wish to question you about possible events you may have witnessed. No matter the case, it is always critical to know your rights so that you can protect yourself in the event you are charged with a crime.
What right do you have if the police stop you or pull you over?
When in a public place, a police officer may stop you for a number of reasons, and when this occurs, they may often ask you questions and ask you to comply with specific requests. Before you agree to anything, you need to know your rights under the law. You have the right to:
- Choose to stay silent: You do not have to explain where you are going or what you are doing. If you choose to remain silent, you will need to express it to the officer verbally. You may be legally required to identify yourself, and if driving a vehicle, present a license, but aside from that, you do not have to give any more information.
- Refuse a search: You can verbally refuse a search, though the police officer may wish to pat your clothing down to protect themselves by ensuring you are not carrying a weapon. A police officer may continue to search you, but if you verbally object your rights can be preserved if the case goes to court.
- Request a lawyer if you are arrested: If your stop results in an arrest, you have the right to retain counsel, having one appointed if you cannot afford to hire your own. It is advisable not to say anything until you have spoken with your attorney and received their advice.
If you are a passenger in the vehicle, you have the right to ask the officer if you can leave. The request may not be granted, but you have the right to make the request. When being stopped, never try to run, lie, or conceal your hands. A police officer will have no idea if you have a weapon or if their safety is at risk, so they will often ask you to keep your hands where they are visible. If you are pulled over, make sure to pull off in a safe spot, turn off your lights and place your hands on the steering wheel until the police officer instructions you to grab your identification.
What rights do you have if the police come to your door?
When the police come to your private property, you will have different rights then when stopped in public. You have the right to:
- Refuse to invite the officer into your home: Unless the police officer has a warrant, you do not have to allow them inside, to talk even though they will likely ask. You can speak to them through the door and request to see their identification.
- View the warrant before they come in: If the officer has a warrant, you can request that they pass it under the door or hold it up to the window so you can read it. If it is an arrest warrant, it will need to have the name of the person to be arrested on it. If it is a search warrant, it will need to have the address of the house and the area to be searched.
- Remain silent: Even if the officer has a warrant to search your home, you don’t need to answer any of their questions. Make sure to observe where they go and what they take while standing silent.
If you feel that the police have violated your rights in any way, make sure to write down everything that you can remember, get any contact information for witnesses and contact an attorney. Even if you are not arrested, you should have an attorney to address your violated rights.