It’s always stressful to be stopped by the authorities, especially if you don’t know why you’ve been stopped in the first place. And in today’s climate, encounters with law enforcement can be more tense than ever.
You’ve probably been given advice like “stay calm,” or “don’t resist,” meant to make your law enforcement encounter go more smoothly. However, you should know that you do have rights when you are stopped by authorities, even though these authorities sometimes violate these rights and use force when threatened.
Our team of civil rights attorneys at the Gilbert Law Firm has helped many clients deal with issues with the authorities, which is why we’ve teamed up to provide a series of articles over the next few months: “Law Enforcement Encounters: What To Do If You’re Stopped by the Authorities.”
First on the list, read on to find out our 5 tips for how to deal with an interaction with the police.
5 Tips if the Police Stop You
If the police stop you, the most important thing to remember is that you do not have to answer any questions except “What is your identity?”
You have the right to remain silent if you wish; if you do not want to answer any questions, just tell the officer that you do not want to answer.
If you want to have a safe and uneventful interaction with the police while still exercising your civil rights, here are a few tips that might help you:
- If you are in your car at the time of the stop, turn off your engine and put your hands on the steering wheel or dashboard if you are a passenger. Turn on the internal light and open the window part-way.
- Tell the officer what you are doing at each step and move slowly.
- Have your driver’s license, auto registration and proof of insurance ready.
- If the officer wants to search your car, you can refuse; however, if the officer has probable cause, they do not need your consent.
- If they request to search your person, you do not have to agree. You may ask to leave; if the answer is yes, then calmly leave.
It is in your best interest to try to remain calm during the encounter. Do not argue, resist, obstruct the officer, or give them any reason to use force. Always keep your hands visible to the police.
Even if you do not consent to a search of your belongings, your car, or your person, a police officer might conduct the search anyway, whether they have probable cause or not.
The benefit of refusing consent is that a record of this objection can help preserve your rights at a later point in the legal proceedings.
Know Your Rights when stopped by the police
All of that being said, there are certain rights that are guaranteed to you by U.S. law if you are stopped and questioned by the police:
- You have the right to remain silent
- You have the right to refuse a search of your belongings, person, car, or home
- You have the right to due process and a government-appointed attorney if arrested
- You do not have to answer any questions about where you were born, your citizenship, or how you entered the country
If any of these rights are violated, you should contact a civil rights or criminal defense attorney immediately.
Contact the Gilbert Law Firm for Help if You’ve Been Stopped by the Authorities
The violation of a person’s civil rights is a very serious matter. If you’ve had an experience like this, seek out an experienced civil rights attorney that is tireless in their defense and committed to getting justice for you.
At Gilbert Law Firm, we are not afraid to represent the powerless against the abuses of the powerful. If you have questions about your interactions with the police, FBI or immigration authorities, contact us today for a free consultation.