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- in Constitutional Rights
- by Stephen Gustitis
We all understand the need for good law enforcement. However, we also must understand our own constitutional rights and responsibilities – especially when we interact with the police.
If you are stopped by the police:
- Stay calm and in control of your words, your emotions, and your body. Don’t get into an argument with the police.
- Remember, anything you say or do can be used against you.
- Do not run. Do not touch any police officer. Do not resist even if you believe you are innocent.
- Do not complain at the scene or tell the police they are wrong.
- Do not make any statements regarding the incident. Do not consent to any searches.
- Ask for a lawyer immediately if you are arrested.
- Remember officer’s names and badge numbers, if possible.
- Try to find witnesses and their names and telephone numbers.
- If you are injured, take photographs of the injuries as soon as possible, but make sure you get medical attention first.
- Never bad-mouth a police officer.
During an encounter, you can protect yourself:
- What you say to the police can and will be used against you, and it can give the police an excuse to arrest you, especially if you are bad-mouthing the officer.
- You do not have to consent to a search of yourself, your car, or your home. If you do consent to a search, it can adversely affect your rights later in court. If the police say they have a search warrant – ask to see it.
- Do not interfere with or obstruct the police – you can be arrested for it.
If you are stopped for questioning:
- The police may stop and detain you only if they have a reasonable suspicion you have committed, are committing, or are about to commit a crime.
- You can ask if you are under arrest or free to leave. If you are arrested, you have a right to know why.
- It is not a crime to refuse to answer questions, although it is a crime to refuse to identify yourself and produce proof of your identity.
- If police reasonably suspect you pose a danger to them or others, they may conduct a frisk and “pat down” your outer clothing. Do not physically resist, but make it clear you do not consent to any further searches.
If you are stopped in your car:
- Upon request, show the police your driver’s license and proof of insurance. In certain cases your car can be searched without a warrant. However, to protect yourself you should state you do not consent to a search. It is not lawful for the police to arrest you simply for refusing to consent to a search.
- If you are given a ticket – you should sign it. You can always fight the case later in court.
- If you are suspected of DWI/DUI you will be asked to take field sobriety tests and breath alcohol tests. If you fail any of the tests, or if you refuse the tests, you will be arrested and your driver’s license may be taken away. The results of these tests can and will be used against you in court.
- If you are arrested, the police can search you, your car, and the area immediately surrounding you, or where evidence of criminal activity is in plain view.
If you are contacted at your home:
- If the police knock and ask to enter your home, you do not have to let them in, or even open the door, unless they have a warrant signed by a judge – not just the threat of getting a warrant.
- You do not have to consent to any search of your home.
- In some emergency situations, officers are allowed to enter and search your home without a warrant and without your consent.
- If you are arrested in your home, the police can search you, the area immediately surrounding you, or where evidence of criminal activity is in plain view.
If you are arrested or taken to a police station:
- You have the right to remain silent and talk to a lawyer before you talk to the police.
- Do not tell the police anything except your name, address, and date of birth.
- Do not give any explanations, excuses, or stories. You can assert your defense later with the help of your lawyer.
- Ask to see your lawyer immediately. Do not say anything without a lawyer.
- Do not talk about the facts of your case over the telephone at the police station or jail.
- Do not make any decisions about your case until you have talked with your lawyer.
Visit my Bryan-College Station Criminal Defense Blog for other posts about criminal defense and trial advocacy.