Your Rights

What if I get stopped on the street by law enforcement?

Legally you are not required to answer any questions. You have the right to walk away after telling the officer that you are not willing to talk. You may also ask if you are free to go in order to establish that you aren’t being arrested. It is important not to run from the police officer! If the officer requests that you remain speaking with them, then its possible that you are being detained for questioning. Detainment is not the same as being arrested, although you may be arrested based on your conversation during detainment.

If the police have reasonable suspicion to believe that you have contraband, you receive a pat down. Officers are mostly looking for weapons and/or drugs during the pat-down process. The officer may ask for your consent to search, at which point you can either deny or accept their request. If the officers start their search without your consent, do not physically resist them. If you have been detained or arrested, you are under no obligation to speak to or answer questions from the police. The only information that you are legally required to tell a police officer is your name, depending on the state that you live in.


What If i get stopped in my vehicle?

Is it important to keep your hands where the officers can see them. Not doing so may result in higher perceived risk by the officer.  This will only extend the amount of time that the officer will want to investigate the situation which is in no one’s best interests. You’ll be required to show your vehicle registration, proof of insurance and drivers license. You may also be asked to step outside of your vehicle for the remainder of the stop. Officers commonly separate passengers and the driver in order to question each person individually. This is done so that if all the vehicle’s occupants don’t share the same general story, reasonable suspicion or probable cause is established. Vehicles cannot be searched without your consent, unless probable cause has been established. Probable cause simply means that the officer if aware of facts that support the notion that a crime is currently taking place, or illegal contraband is present in the vehicle.


What if I get arrested?

In the event that you are arrested, the officer will inform you on your constitutional rights to remain silent.  You also have the right to an attorney if you cannot afford one. Even if the officers fail to tell you about these rights, you should exercise all of them. Any information besides your name can and will be used against you. As soon as you are arrested, request to speak to a lawyer immediately. You have the right to a phone call after booking. Law enforcement officers may not listen to your conversation with your lawyer. Police are allowed to listen to phone calls made to other people. People are typically taken before a judge within 48 hours of arrest.


Should I answer questions if I have been arrested?

No! It is in your best interests to remain silent upon arrest. Always ask to speak to your lawyer every time an officer tries to extract information from you. Talking to a lawyer first is always the best option.


What if I am mistreated by law enforcement?

Write down the policeman or policewoman’s name, badge number and other information. You have the right to ask the police officer for this information. Witnesses can greatly improve your chances of proving your case, so get their names and phone numbers as well. In case of injury, take pictures of the injuries as soon as possible. It is also advised to make a complaint to the law enforcement precinct.



The materials available at this web site are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem.