Know Your Rights
What you don’t know, as well as what you do know, can definitely hurt you when dealing with the police. Generally speaking, the police are persons of action, not reflection. Whenever it is that they form their decision, you are not going to change their minds through logic and reason. No person, since the dawn of human kind’s presence on this planet, has ever won an argument with a police officer! And you’re not going to be the first to do so.
For a free consultation to learn more about your rights when involved with law enforcement or the criminal justice system, call me right away on my cell phone at 216-857-3K. Or, if you prefer, send me an e-mail and I will respond to your inquiry in a meaningful way.
What follows is sound—and free—advice for you to understand and live by. Follow this advice and there won’t be any broken bones, or bloody faces, or false additional charges.
1. WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU ENCOUNTER THE POLICE
2. IF YOU HAVE A POLICE ENCOUNTER, YOU CAN PROTECT YOURSELF
3. IF YOU ARE STOPPED FOR QUESTIONING
4. IF STOPPED IN YOUR CAR
5. IF YOU ARE ARRESTED OR TAKEN TO A POLICE STATION
6. IN YOUR HOME
Be polite and respectful. Never bad-mouth a police officer. If you do, you will lose!
Stay calm and in control of your words, body language and emotions.
Do not get into an argument with the police. Again, you will lose that argument.
Remember, anything you say or do WILL be used against you.
At all times, keep your hands where the police can see them.
Do not run away no matter what the situation! And do not touch any police officers.
Do not resist the police officer even if you know you are innocent.
Do not complain on the scene or tell the police they are wrong or that you are going to sue them.
Do not make any statements regarding the incident at the scene of the incident.
Remember all the officers’ badges & patrol car numbers involved in the incident.
Write down everything you remember immediately after the incident.
Try to find witnesses to the incident and get their names & phone numbers.
If you are injured, take photographs of the injuries as soon as possible, but make sure you seek medical attention first.
If you feel your rights have been violated, file a written complaint with police department’s internal affairs division or civilian complaint board but only after first speaking with your attorney.
What you say to the police is critical! What you say WILL be used against you, and it can give the police an excuse to arrest you, especially if you bad-mouth a police officer. Always be polite and courteous.
You do not have to answer any police officer’s questions, but you must show your driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance when stopped while driving. In non-motor vehicle situations, you can not legally be arrested for refusing to identify yourself to a police officer.
You do not have to consent to any search of yourself, your car or your house. DO NOT consent to any type of search; it will adversely affect your rights later in court. If the police say they have a search warrant, ASK TO SEE IT. If the officers are determined to conduct a search of yourself, your car or your home despite your statements protesting such a search, under no circumstances are you to interfere in any way with the officers.
Actively interfering with the police constitutes the crime of “Obstruction of Official Business.” Actively interfering with a police officer will get you arrested.
It is not a crime to refuse to answer questions, but refusing to answer can make the police suspicious about you. You can not be arrested for merely refusing to identify yourself on the street or not talking to the police officers.
Police may “pat-down” your clothing if they suspect you are carrying a concealed weapon. Do not physically resist this “pat-down,” but make it clear that you do not consent to any further search.
Ask if you are under arrest. If you are, you have a right to know why. If you are not under arrest, inform the officer that wish to leave his presence immediately.
Do not bad-mouth the police officer or run away from him, even if you believe what is happening is unreasonable or unlawful. That WILL undoubtedly lead to your arrest.
Upon request, show the officer your driver’s license, registration, and insurance card. In certain cases, your car will be searched without a warrant as long as the police have “probable cause” to suspect a crime has been committed. To protect yourself later, make it clear that you DO NOT consent to a search. It is unlawful for the police to arrest you simply for refusing to consent to a search.
If you are given a ticket, you should sign it; otherwise you can be arrested. You can always fight the ticket in court later.
If you are suspected of drunk driving (DUI), agree to perform the requested field sobriety tests at roadside or back at the station but only if your performance is being video-taped or your attorney is present to observe your performance! If you are informed that you are not being video-taped, simply remind the officer that you will be happy to perform any balance/coordination test he desires so long as you perform it before a video camera or your attorney. Under any other situation, it will simply be his word against “a drunk” concerning how you performed the tests!
The same holds true for submitting to an alcohol chemical breath test. The breath test machines used at the police stations are of unknown unreliability and the tests are administered in a very unscientific manner. Consequently, they often yield bogus results. Always offer and agree to submit to a neutral hospital blood test to determine the amount of alcohol in your body! And write down this offer everywhere and on every document you are required to sign your name to at the police station (on your ticket, on the implied consent form, bail ticket, etc.). Make sure this request appears on all copies of the documents that you sign. Be aware that if you decline to submit to the particular type of alcohol test requested by the police officer – whether it is a blood, urine or a breath test, your driver’s license will likely be suspended for a period of time.
The very second that you are arrested (either informed of such by the officer or handcuffed), you have the right to remain silent and to talk to a lawyer before you talk to the police. Exercise these rights! Tell the police you wish to speak with your attorney immediately and then say nothing except your name, address and biographical information. Do not give any explanations, rationalizations, excuses or stories concerning your conduct. NOTHING! You can defend yourself later, in court, based on what you and your lawyer decide is best.
Ask to see a lawyer immediately. If you can not pay for a lawyer, you have a right to a free one, and should ask the police how the lawyer can be contacted. Do not say anything without a lawyer!
Within a reasonable time after your arrest, you have the right to make a local phone call: to a lawyer, bail bondsman, a relative or any other person. The police may not listen to your call to your lawyer.
Do not make any decisions in your case until you have talked with a lawyer.
If the police knock and ask to enter your home, you do not have to admit them unless they have a warrant signed by a judge.
However, in some emergency situations (like when a person is screaming for help inside, or when the police are chasing someone) officers are allowed to enter and search your home without a warrant.
If you are arrested, the police can search you and the area close by. If you are in a building, “close by” usually means just the room you are in.
We all recognize the need for effective law enforcement, but we should also understand our own rights and responsibilities – especially in our relationships with the police. Everyone, including minors, has the right to courteous and respectful police treatment.
If your rights are violated, do not try to deal with the situation at the scene. You can discuss the matter with an attorney afterwards, or file a complaint with the Internal Affairs or Civilian Complaint Board.