Getting stopped by police can be stressful. In any tense situation, your nerves can get the better of you, making you seem defensive when you have nothing to hide. Just stay calm and remember to exercise your rights, such as:
- Your right to remain silent. State laws might require you to identify yourself, but nothing further than that.
- They cannot search your belongings without your consent. However, they can pat you down if they think you are hiding a weapon. Sometimes, police might still search you without your permission.
- You do not need to answer questions about your residence, citizenship or other immigration-related questions. However, different rules apply for tourists, people traveling for business and specific places like international borders or airports.
- You have the right to an attorney if they arrest you.
Facing police misconduct
Sometimes, the police can use their authority to deprive you of your rights. You can report these violations, including:
- Unnecessary use of extreme force
- Unlawful searches, stops or arrests
- Unjust arrests
What you experienced might not be an isolated incident. If so, the police need to investigate and enforce policies to stop this.
What happens next?
They can either let you go or arrest you. You have the right to tell them you wish to remain silent and want a lawyer, and you have the right to a local phone call. While you have the right to privacy when talking to a lawyer, the police can listen if you call someone else.
You do not need to give them any excuses, sign any documents or make decisions. You can sort everything out once you have a lawyer present.