With all the media hype about negative police interactions with citizens, it’s always good to educate yourself on your rights when you encounter law enforcement.
It’s important to note that laws can vary from state to state, and there are different rules for checkpoints and when you’re entering the United States.
The American Civil Liberties Union has come up with a very handy list of your rights. If you don’t want to forget them, you can download a card from their website to carry with you at all times.
What are your rights?
No matter what your immigration status is, you have constitutional rights if you are in the United States. These include:
- The right to remain silent. But you have to say it out loud if you want to invoke that right, and in some states, you must give your name if asked for it.
- The right to not let police search your person, your vehicle or your home.
- If you are not under arrest, you have the right to leave the scene — in a calm manner.
- You have the right to an attorney. You should ask for one immediately.
What are your responsibilities?
Although you have rights, you also have obligations to make sure things go as smoothly as possible. These responsibilities include:
- Staying calm and being polite – keep your hands where police officers can see them.
- Not interfering with or obstructing a police investigation or active scene.
- You must be honest and cannot provide false documents.
- You should alert your family and prepare in case you are going to be arrested.
- Document all the details of the encounter as soon as you are able to.
What do you do if you’re stopped for questioning?
Here are some tips in the event that you are stopped by law enforcement:
- Don’t run. Don’t be argumentative, and don’t resist arrest, even if you are totally innocent.
- You can ask if you are free to leave. If the officer says yes, then calmly walk away without saying a word. If the officer says no, then calmly ask why not and know that you have the right to know why you are being held.
- If you are placed under arrest, you have the right to know why you are being arrested.
- Although you aren’t required to allow police to search your person or your belongings, officers are allowed to “pat you down” if they believe you might be carrying a weapon. Also, if police have reason to believe there is evidence of a crime, they can search your belongings without your consent.
- If you are asked for your driver’s license, registration and/or insurance, hand it over.
If you believe your constitutional rights were violated, or the rights of anyone you love have been violated, you need the help of an experienced attorney. Contact Jacqui Ford’s office today.