Know Your Rights

A police encounter can be intimidating — but you do have rights. Following these basic rules can help protect you when dealing with a law enforcement officer.

If you’re stopped by the police, do not talk to them. If you are arrested, say, “I choose to remain silent and I want to talk to my attorney.”
Do not consent to a search of your person or your property. If the police search you, tell them, “I do not consent to a search.”
Document all police conduct and misconduct.

If the police stop you…

• Stay calm. Do not physically resist.
• Keep your hands visible and free of all objects, especially those that can be confused for a weapon.
• Remain silent. You do not have to talk with the police.
• Ask “Am I free to go?” If the answer is “yes,” leave immediately.
• If you are detained, show your ID. If you don’t, you can be held for up to three days in order to identify you.

If the police want to search you…

• Never consent to a search!
• Say “I do not consent to a search” loudly enough so others can hear you
• Don’t resist physically — police can patch you down if they have reasonable suspicion of weapons or drugs
• Don’t open your bag or any closed items for the police

If the police try to enter your home…

• Never consent to a search
• If you have opened the door, step outside and lock the door behind you
• Ask to see a search warrant. Does it have your address on it, and is it signed by a judge?
• If police have a search warrant, do not agree to let them search areas not covered by the warrant

If the police stop your car…

• Stay calm
• Do not answer any questions — silence is not a crime
• Do show your driver’s licenses, registration and proof of insurance
• Do tell the officer that you do not consent to a search of your car, if asked
• Don’t open  your trunk or car door to allow the police access — otherwise they may argue you consented to a search
• Do sign any ticket they give you
• If you refuse a blood, urine or breath test when asked, your license can be suspended

If the police arrest you…

• Do not answer any questions
• Do say, “I choose to remain silent and I want to talk to my attorney.”
• Do not talk about your case to anyone except your attorney

If you are mistreated by the police…

• Immediately write down the details of the incident, including badge numbers and names of witnesses
• Get a medical report immediately, as well as photographs documenting any injuries or property damage

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