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Your Rights

Via The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union)
When pulled over, it’s important to be aware that you can demonstrate your rights while maintaining all legality. We’ve highlighted your rights below for you to quickly refer to whilst pulled over. The information written informs you about your basic rights, but it is not a substitute for legal advice. If you have been arrested or ticketed and feel as if the law enforcement officer was wrongdoing, you should contact an attorney.

Questioning

Q: What kind of law enforcement officers might try to question me?

A:  You could be questioned by a variety of law enforcement officers, including state or local police officers, Joint Terrorism Task Force members, or federal agents from the FBI, Department of Homeland Security (which includes Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Border Patrol), Drug Enforcement Administration, Naval Criminal Investigative Service, or other agencies.

Q: Do I have to answer questions asked by law enforcement officers?

A:  No. You have the constitutional right to remain silent. In general, you do not have to talk to law enforcement officers, even if you do not feel free to walk away from the officer, you are arrested, or you are in jail. It is a good idea to talk to a lawyer before agreeing to answer questions.

 

Q: Are there any exceptions to the general rule that I do not have to answer questions?

A: Yes, there are two limited exceptions. First, in some states, you must provide your name to law enforcement officers if you are stopped and told to identify yourself. But even if you give your name, you are not required to answer other questions. Second, if you are driving and you are pulled over for a traffic violation, the officer can require you to show your license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance.

 

Q: Can I talk to a lawyer before answering questions?

A: Yes. You have the constitutional right to talk to a lawyer before answering questions, whether or not the police tell you about that right. The lawyer’s job is to protect your rights. Once you say that you want to talk to a lawyer, officers should stop asking you questions. If they continue to ask questions, you still have the right to remain silent. If you do not have a  lawyer, you may still tell the officer you want to speak to one before answering questions. If you do have a lawyer, keep his or her business card with you. Show it to the officer, and ask to call your lawyer. Remember to get the name, agency and telephone number of any law enforcement officer who stops or visits you, and give that information to your lawyer.

 

Q: What if I speak to law enforcement officers anyway?

A:  Anything you say to a law enforcement officer can be used against you and others. Keep in mind that lying to a government official is a crime but remaining silent until you consult with a lawyer is not. Even if you have already answered some questions, you can refuse to answer other questions until you have a lawyer.

 


Stops and Arrests

Q: What if law enforcement officers stop me on the street?

A: You do not have to answer any questions. You can say, “I do not want to talk to you” and walk away calmly. Or, if you do not feel comfortable doing that, you can ask if you are free to go. If the answer is yes, you can consider just walking away. Do not run from the officer. If the officer says you are not under arrest, but you are not free to go, then you are being detained. Being detained is not the same as being arrested, though an arrest could follow. The police can pat down the outside of your clothing only if they have “reasonable suspicion” that you might be armed and dangerous. If searches go any further, say clearly “I do not consent to a search”. Do not physically resist if they persist with the search.

 

Q: What if law enforcement officers stop me in my car?

A: Keep you hands where the police can see them. You must show your drivers license, registration and proof of insurance if you are asked for these documents. Officers can also ask you to step outside of the car, and they may separate passengers and drivers from each other to question them and compare their answers, but no one has to answer any questions. The police cannot search your car unless you give them your consent, which you do not have to give, or unless they have “probable cause” to believe that criminal activity is likely taking place, that you have been involved in a crime, or that you have evidence of a crime in your car. If you do not want your car searched, clearly state that you do not consent. The officer cannot use your refusal to give consent as a basis for doing a search.

Q: What should I do if law enforcement officers arrest me?

A: The officer must advise you of your constitutional rights to remain silent, to an attorney, and to have an attorney appointed if you cannot afford one. You should exercise all these rights, even if the officers don’t tell you about them. Do not tell the police anything except your name. Anything else you say can and will be used against you. Ask to see a lawyer immediately. Within a reasonable amount of time after your arrest or booking, you have the right to a phone call. Law enforcement officers may not listen to a phone call made to your attorney, yet they may listen to calls made to any other person. You must be taken before a judge within generally 48 hours after your arrest at the latest.

 

Q: What if I am treated badly by a law enforcement officer?

A: Write down the officer’s badge number, name or other indentifying information. You have a right to ask the officer for this information. Try to find witnesses and their names and phone numbers. If you are injured, seek medical attention and take pictures of the injuries as soon as you can. Call a lawyer or contact your local ACLU office. You should also make a complaint to the law enforcement office responsible for the treatment.

 

 


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