Being stopped by a police officer is scary. As citizens and members of the public it is our responsibility to know the law and our hope that cops will be officers of justice. But citizen rights are not always respected. So in an interaction with an officer it’s important to avoid doing anything that could result in a risk to our safety. This instructable will walk you through everything you need to know to be safe while interacting with the police.
All of the information in this guide is straight from the American Civil Liberties Union.
Step 1: General Guidance for Dealing With the Police
1. What you say to the police is always important. What you say can be used against you, and it can give the police an excuse to arrest you, especially if you badmouth a police officer.
2. You must show your driver's license and registration when stopped in a car. Otherwise, you don't have to answer any questions if you are detained or arrested, with one important exception. The police may ask for your name if you have been properly detained, and you can be arrested in some states for refusing to give it. If you reasonably fear that your name is incriminating, you can claim the right to remain silent, which may be a defense in case you are arrested anyway.
3. You do not have to consent to any search of yourself, your car or your house. If you DO consent to a search, it can affect your rights later in court. If the police say they have a search warrant, ASK TO SEE IT.
4. Do not interfere with, or obstruct the police, as you can be arrested for it.
Think carefully about your words, movement, body language, and emotions.
Do not get into an argument with the police.
Anything you say or do can be used against you.
Keep your hands where the police can see them.
Do not run. Do not touch any police officer.
Do not resist even if you believe you are innocent.
Do not complain on the scene or tell the police they are wrong or that you are going to file a complaint.
Do not make any statements regarding the incident.
Ask for a lawyer immediately upon your arrest.
Remember officer badge & patrol car numbers.
Write down everything you remember ASAP.
Try to find witnesses & their names & phone numbers.
If you are injured, take photographs of the injuries as soon as possible, but make sure you seek medical attention first.
If you feel your rights have been violated, file a written complaint with police department internal affairs division or civilian complaint board, or call the ACLU hotline, 1-877-6-PROFILE.
Step 2: What to Do If the Police Want to Enter Your Home
1. If the police knock and ask to enter your home, you do not have to admit them unless they have a warrant signed by a judge.
2. However, in some emergency situations (like when a person is screaming for help inside, or when the police are chasing someone) officers are allowed to enter and search your home without a warrant.
3. If you are arrested, the police can search you and the area close by. If you are in a building, 'close by' usually means just the room you are in.
Step 3: What to Do If You Are Stopped for Questioning
1. It's not a crime to refuse to answer questions, but refusing to answer might make the police suspicious about you. If you are asked to identify yourself, you must show your driver's license and registration when stopped in a car. Otherwise, you don't have to answer any questions if you are detained or arrested, with one important exception: The police may ask for your name if you have been properly detained, and you can be arrested in some states for refusing to give it. If you reasonably fear that your name is incriminating, you can claim the right to remain silent, which may be a defense in case you are arrested anyway
2. Police may pat-down your clothing if they suspect a concealed weapon. Do not physically resist, but make it clear that you do not consent to any further search.
3. Ask if you are under arrest. If you are, you have a right to know why.
4. Do not bad-mouth the police officer or run away, even if you believe what is happening is unreasonable. That could lead to your arrest.
Step 4: What to Do If the Police Stop You in Your Car
1. Upon request, show them your driver's license, registration, and proof of insurance. In certain cases, your car can be searched without a warrant as long as the police have probable cause. To protect yourself later, you should make it clear that you do not consent to a search. It is not lawful for police to arrest you simply for refusing to consent to a search.
2. If you are given a ticket, you should sign it; otherwise you can be arrested. You can always fight the case in court later.
3. If you are suspected of drunk driving (DWI) and refuse to take a blood, urine or breath test, your driver's license may be suspended.
Step 5: What to Do If You Are Arrested or Taken to a Police Station
1. You have the right to remain silent and to talk to a lawyer before you talk to the police. Tell the police nothing except your name and address. Do not give any explanations, excuses or stories. You can make your defense later, in court, based on what you and your lawyer decide is best.
2. Ask to see a lawyer immediately. If you cannot pay for a lawyer you have a right to a free one, and should ask the police how the lawyer can be contacted. Do not say anything without a lawyer.
3. Within a reasonable time after your arrest or booking, you have the right to make a local phone call: to a lawyer, bail bondsman, a relative or any other person. The police may not listen to the call to the lawyer.
4. Sometimes you can be released without bail or have bail lowered. Have your lawyer ask the judge about this possibility. You must be taken before the judge on the next court day after arrest.
5. Do not make any decisions in your case until you have talked with a lawyer.
Step 6: Support the ACLU!
All written content in this Instructable is from the ACLU's "What to Do if You Are Stopped by the Police" wallet card, which you can download here. Print out a copy, laminate it, and stick it in your wallet so that you have it when it matters most.
Finally. . .
The ACLU is America's most important non-governmental defender of the Bill of Rights and your personal freedoms. Go check out their website and consider getting involved!