Police officers are employed to protect and serve YOU. Frequently they cannot do their job without the help of witnesses, victims, and everyday citizens. However, you may find that you are the subject of an investigation and these 5 important rules may help.
- Be Polite and stay calm. Even if you are innocent and the police are completely wrong, now is not the time to vindicate your rights. Don’t run. Don’t argue, resist or obstruct the police. Keep your hands where the police can see them. Even if you are completely innocent, imagine that officer believes that you are a dangerous criminal – and behave in a manner that will assure the officer that you are not a current physical threat to him or her.
- Ask if you are free to leave. If the officer says yes, calmly and silently walk away. If you are under arrest, you have a right to know why.
- You have the right to remain silent and cannot be punished for refusing to answer questions. If you wish to remain silent, tell the officer out loud. In some states, you must give your name if asked to identify yourself.
- You do not have to consent to a search of yourself or your belongings, but police may “pat down” your clothing if they suspect a weapon. You should not physically resist, but you have the right to refuse consent for any further search. If you do consent, it can affect you later in court.
- You may ask to speak to a lawyer. You do not have the right to speak to a lawyer unless you have been arrested. If you aren’t sure if you have been arrested, you may ask the officer if you are free to leave (see 2 above) or if you have been arrested.
There is no reason that a conversation with an officer need be confrontational or unpleasant. As soon as practicable, write down the name of the officer, a badge number, and whatever you can remember from the conversation. You have rights. If you believe your rights have been violated or you have questions or concerns contact an attorney.