Police encounters can be a tricky situation. How do you handle a police encounter without making yourself look suspicious, evasive, or uncooperative? The short answer is: know your rights. The next time you are stopped by a police officer, follow these 10 steps to exercise your rights:
1. Know the difference between a request and a demand
This seems straightforward, but police officers often phrase things as an order (even though they are legally defined as requests) in an attempt to get you to voluntarily waive your rights. Always clarify whether you are being requested or ordered to do something.
2. Ask if you are free to leave (and keep asking!)
Did you know that if you do not ask to leave, you are “voluntarily staying” in the eyes of the law? Ask to leave, and ask often.
3. Don’t open your door (or window) all the way
If you are stopped by a police officer (or a police officer knocks on your door), only open your door or window a crack. Opening your door or window all the way could invite further trouble. For example, a police officer may see something they deem suspicious in plain view, and conduct a more thorough search. If they ask you to open your door or window further, refer back to rule number 1!
4. Don’t be intimidated
Police are legally allowed to bluff (ex: “I’m going to call a K-9 unit if you refuse a search”) in an attempt to get you to voluntarily waive your right to remain silent.
5. Don’t fall for checkpoint traps
Drug checkpoints are illegal, but police officers sometimes put up signs near illegal U-turns or other traps. If you see a sign warning of a drug checkpoint, don’t try to turn around or drive off.
6. Stay calm
Panicking or getting angry will most likely not end well for you.
7. Tell the truth
If you are applying the above rules, you should not ever be in a situation where you need to lie.
8. Be polite!
If you feel that police are denying you your rights, make it clear that you do not consent, but do not physically resist or become verbally combative. This could bring potential charges against you.
9. Use your right to remain silent
If you are arrested, it is crucial that you USE your right to remain silent. Police regularly use interrogation tactics that have been shown to draw false confessions – even from innocent people.
10. Call a criminal defense attorney
A criminal defense lawyer has a thorough understanding of your rights and is the most qualified person to deal with police if you are arrested. If you are arrested, you should not speak to ANYONE about the details of your arrest without your attorney present.
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