Police Interactions: Know Your Rights!
You’re driving along when you see the dreaded red and blue lights flashing in your rear-view mirror. You get a pit of fear in your stomach, hoping beyond hope that maybe the police are after someone up ahead. But no, as you pull to the shoulder of the road, the lights follow you, and you know that you are the target of the upcoming police interaction. What are your rights going forward?
Number One: Think Safety
While you have a number of rights in this situation, it just makes sense to respond to officer requests with respect. Turn off your vehicle, turn on an interior light so the officer can have a better view of things, turn down the radio, and avoid sudden movements. Keep your hands visible (passengers too) and moderate your tone. Don’t provide false information, and by all means don’t resist arrest or flee. Do everything you can to avoid spooking the officer into doing something drastic. That being said, remember your rights:
During A Stop
Whether or not you are mirandized, you and any passengers do have the right to remain silent. Besides providing your license, registration, and insurance information, you don’t have to reveal anything about where you’re going or what you’re up to. When questioned, simply say that you are exercising your right to remain silent.
Do not consent to a search of your vehicle. While police may choose to pat you down to ensure you have no weapons, they cannot search your possessions without probable cause.
You do not have to answer any questions related to your citizenship.
If You’re Arrested
In the event you are arrested, remain silent except to ask for an attorney. Do not explain or defend anything verbally, and definitely do not sign anything. Wait for your attorney before saying or doing anything, and make sure you tell officers that is your plan.
You have the right to one local phone call. Be aware that if the call is to anyone besides your attorney, the police have the right to, and may listen in.
If Your Rights were Violated
If you believe the police violated your rights, you’ll want to be sure to document any details of the incident, including:
- Badge numbers of officers involved;
- Names of witnesses;
- Patrol car numbers and agencies;
- Photographs of injuries and any other relevant items;
- Details related to the situation.
- Ultimately, your attorney can help you to file a complaint.
A simple traffic stop sometimes leads to criminal charges. Being smart about the way you handle yourself can pay off down the road. You have every right to protect yourself by keeping mum and letting your learned attorney handle the questions. At The Law Office of Hammad S. Matin, P.A. , our La Plata & Waldorf criminal defense attorneys have your best interests at the heart of every decision we make. Contact us immediately following an arrest and let us fight for you.