Introduction: What to Do If the Police Stop You
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!
Question 3 years ago on Introduction
I was having trouble sleeping because of the heat so I drove 3 blocks to a gas station for coffee and a donut it was busy so I waited in my car relaxing and I dozed off for 10 min next thing I have 4 cops banging on my window accusing me of being a drunk driver passed out.They claim they were responding to a complaint.I was treated rudely but finally let go what can someone do in this situation during interrogation. Ken in Wisconsin
4 years ago
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Question 5 years ago on Step 5
i need to know that if i am standing near my school after the school is over...can a police office hit me and take me to police station....without any reason....and giving me threats on to charge fake cases on me...what to do in that situation???
5 years ago
This is not acceptable. When an officer asks you to do something, do it! They are there to protect you and others.
8 years ago
You are 5 times more likely to be executed by a police officer in the united states than by a terrorist, that's sad so MajHunter get a real job you freaking Traitor to the Constitution
Reply 6 years ago
In the US, over the course of 100 years, you have a 00.04% chance of getting killed by a cop. that is extremely unlikely, to a point where you don't have to even worry about it.
Reply 5 years ago
It depends on where you are and what you are doing. If you are walking down the street in the suburbs, where everyone else is driving, police are more likely to stop you for some reason. When that happens you must be completely familiar with police protocol or you could get shot.
15 years ago on Introduction
I am a police officer in California. This comment in no way reflects the official stance of my department or the city I work for. The information in this instructable is mostly accurate. You can not refuse to give you name even if it is incriminating. If you are arrested and you invoke your right to a lawyer or to silence, we can still ask you identifying questions for your arrest paperwork for the jail (name, DOB, address, place of birth, tattoos, phone number, nearest friend or relative etc.). The information about not resisting, keeping your hands where we can see them is all spot on. Several people have posted comments that being polite is the best course of action. They are correct. In many cases we have discretion and can decide to not give a ticket, etc. Some people insist on "talking themselves into a ticket" when they would have just been given a warning. If you don't agree with the ticket, you still have to sign it. Failure to do so is a crime and you will be arrested and booked until you can see a magistrate (judge). Also if you are arrested your vehicle may be impounded. It is in your best interest to sign the ticket. You will note that the citations say something to the effect of "Without admitting guilt, I promise to appear at the time & place checked below" You may not like being pat searched, but it is for a reason. We want to go home to our families at the end of the shift, and we don't know you or what you are thinking, or might do. In the last year and a half my department (about 1000 officers) have had six shot in the line of duty, and been in numerous shootings. People are frequently pulling guns, knives, bats on officers in the last few years. Sudden movements, irate behavior, puts the officer in a situation where he has to try and determine in a split second your intention. Is this irate guy jamming his hand behind his back going for a gun, or his wallet? We are working at a disadvantage in that we are reacting, to the action of the person. Therefore we have to make the decision on how to react in mere milliseconds, meanwhile the person has had plenty of time to decide what it is he is going to do. Since the primary goal is for us to go home to our families, the officer may use force to protect himself. To the comments who said that cops have been rude to them etc. Remember that there are a$$holes in every profession and not all cops are rude. Also your actions, inflection, attitude play into how the officer treats you as well. Ultimately if you aren't doing anything wrong, you have absolutely nothing to worry about when contacted by the police.
Reply 8 years ago
Absolute nonsense. How dare you. In addition to the numerous lies you told, the claim that if someone isn't doing anything wrong then have nothing about which to worry is patently absurd and any cop knows it. If they claim otherwise then they are either ignorant or lying. You're a liar for saying you can ask identifying the questions for paperwork implying one is required to answer. Suspects are not required to say a single work other than possibly a name. Period, end of discussion. Again, to claim otherwise means you're either ignorant or lying. Finally, spare me the crocodile tears about how risky being a police officer is. It doesn't even make the top ten most dangerous jobs list. But even it was, so what? No one has forced a single person to become a police officer. Stop willingly accepting a job and then bitching about it. If you find the job to be too dangerousthen gget another one. Cops want to be treated as though they are a special breed of human. Nonsense. Innocent people are jailed all the time. One may indeed have nothing to hide and consent to a search not knowing that when the junkie searched their car the night before he dropped his crack pipe for which the driver is now responsible. Never, ever, ever consent to a search. Never, ever, ever say a single word of acop bbeyond possibly your name. Cops are not your friend. They are not here to help. They are here to arrest you.
Reply 6 years ago
Reply 8 years ago on Introduction
I want to go home to my family at the end of the encounter, and I don't know you or what you are thinking, or might do.
Also your actions, inflection, attitude play into how I react and treat you as well.
Reply 15 years ago on Introduction
>>> Ultimately if you aren't doing anything wrong, you have absolutely nothing to worry about when contacted by the police. Oh my. Hold on a second. Wait for it. Wait for it. >>> I am a police officer in California. Soooo... being a police officer from California, you would be familiar with, say, LAPD's problems, right? I was dredging up news stories for this massive collection of links to post as a comment, and LAPD just repeatedly came up, over and over. And I was actually looking for convictions and guilty pleas, not just anything. >>> To the comments who said that cops have been rude to them etc. Remember that there are a$$holes in every profession and not all cops are rude. Also your actions, inflection, attitude play into how the officer treats you as well. Here's the same question I asked jaysbob, since he's obviously dodging it: Since there are "a$$holes in every profession", when a cop pulls someone over, how do you know which cop pulled you over? The good cop, or the bad cop? Furthermore, how about looking at this from a Pascal's Wager perspective. (Or perhaps you think you're the only one who wants to go home to his family?) What are the repercussions of getting pulled over by a bad cop? How much damage can that cop do to you, if he were so inclined?
Reply 14 years ago on Introduction
You know the bad cop if you watch "COPS" and see the A**hole from Passaic county with the thick Jersey accent. That cop uses intimidation to put a suspect into a defensive mode to try to get a confession. While police often do their job, I have seen many with ulterior motives. On a few occasions, I have been stopped by an officer just doing his job, but some "eternal rookies" have performed very poorly in their duty to protect the public. Example: I was a courier, and my route took me through Bellevue, WA (a yuppie neighborhood, almost no crime rate), and as I leave a driveway, the physical shock of me leaving the dip in the driveway causes a headlight filament to break, caus9ing a burned-out headlight. I make it about 200 feet before a cop that was watching me and coming from the opposite direction pulls a screeching spin-turn in front of another car and races up to me at speeds exceeding 90mph in a 35 to pull me over. When he asks me if I know why he pulled me over, I say, "Because you witnessing a headlight burning out is some form of international terrorism that threatens children and more important to you, police?" Many cops will say that this attitude is not recommended when you get stopped, but after being stopped for "driving while possessing long hair", "defensive driving", or "going at a high-rate of speed acceleration" (as they call it in cop-speak) for using my engine's peak power range to accelerate on a 150-foot long onramp with an 800-lb load, one gets a little fed up with harassment by cops on a slow night. Back to harassment by a bored cop, he seems almost stunned that I not only know exactly when my headlight burned out, but that I saw him well before he saw me. Now for the fun part.... I ask him if he'd be willing to drive with his headlights ON for a change for the safety of other motorists, since he was driving with them off since I saw him. I have more driving training than most any cop I have seen. I have driven at speeds on a racetrack to the likes that a police cruiser could never dream of reaching. I have handled situations while driving that no cop without my skill and training could avoid a collision in. I also don't need nor want an automatic transmission to help my driving if I were a cop in pursuit, because unlike them I can handle a manual transmission while driving under more extreme circumstances than most if any will ever see. No cop has any place criticizing my driving under any circumstances, nor questioning my ability or knowledgeablility in handling one. To any police officers reading, stop acting like rookies with personal agendas, do as you say and say as you do, don't ever try to put false charges on me again, and do YOUR JOB: PROTECT AND SERVE THE PUBLIC...Ignoring the reckless drunk to do your ticket-writing hobby for a single burnt-out brakelight of six is not being an officer of the law, it's being a cop, and noone likes a cop. Quit chasing a single burnt-out headlight or taillight, and start actually snagging the reckless drivers that I have had to avoid for over four years that you never pay attention to. Finally, when someone races up to you to report an attempted armed vehicular assault, don't spend their getaway time explaining ridiculous formalities of filing a complaint with a police officer. Get a name of the complainant and persue the suspect, instead of fondling yourself to the sound of yourself lecturing another on "policy", because no policy of yours can address real life.
Reply 14 years ago on Introduction
Promethius -You know the bad cop if you watch "COPS" and see the A**hole from Passaic county with the thick Jersey accent.
Yep, cant stand that dude.
Promethius-cop that was watching me and coming from the opposite direction pulls a screeching spin-turn in front of another car and races up to me at speeds exceeding 90mph in a 35 to pull me over.
LOL Slight exaggeration there maybe? A 2007 Crown Vic takes 16.7 seconds to get from 0 to 90, so he would have had to be a long way away I would imagine. LOL.
Let me explain the reason that cops pull people on bikes over for no headlight. Many career criminals have had their license suspended. As a result many ride bicycles. A burned out headlight (or more commonly no headlight) is a violation and gives the officer a reason to detain and contact the person. It is amazing how many people I have arrested that had No Bail warrants for robbery, rape, shootings etc, just off of riding a bicycle in the street with no headlight at night. It is a tool we can use to find out who someone is to see if they are one of the ones who prey on innocent people. I cant think of one time I or anyone I know has written a ticket for no headlight on a bicycle, but it is a legitimate violation of the law.
Promethius-I also don't need nor want an automatic transmission to help my driving if I were a cop in pursuit, because unlike them I can handle a manual transmission while driving under more extreme circumstances than most if any will ever see.
Have you ever thought about why we use automatics? Have you heard the expression, You can outrun Ford or Chevy, but you cant outrun Motorola? Have you ever tried to do rapid lane changes, change gear, and hold a cell phone (Hand microphone) to your mouth at the same time.....oh yeah, only two hands. We have to keep in communication at all times, ESPECIALLY during a pursuit. The SGT, and above wants to hear constant updates on speed, suspect actions, traffic conditions, road conditions, pedestrian traffic, location, directing assisting units where you want spike strips, etc. Non Stop. If you pause for more than a few seconds they will break off the pursuit regardless of whether you are chasing a stolen car, or a wanted mass murderer. Liability. Also you sometimes have to return fire at intersections, etc when the suspect slams on the breaks and starts shooting. There is more to driving a patrol car in a pursuit/etc than driving fast.
Promethius-Finally, when someone races up to you to report an attempted armed vehicular assault....Get a name of the complainant and persue the suspect, .... because no policy of yours can address real life.
/sigh. Okay not even going to get into trying to figure out what an attempted armed vehicular assault is to you. We cant just pursue someone. We have to have a legally articulable reason. Why? Because if the dude crashes, or someone crashes into him and it turns out we had no idea why we were chasing him, the other party (or him) will sue both the department, and us. Multi million dollar judgments are kind of hard to pay off on a cops salary. Cops can and have lost everything they owned (home, car, savings, retirement, etc) because of pursuits etc. I'm sorry, I love helping people and protecting the public, but I'm not going to put my wife and daughter out on the street because I went off half cocked at the prompting of someone who just told me to not jump the gun unless he tells me to.
Not trying to be a hard a$$ bro, but you have to realize that every decision we make at work has the potential to cost us everything we have worked out whole lives for.
Reply 14 years ago on Introduction
Let me explain the reason that cops pull people on bikes over for no headlight. Many career criminals have had their license suspended. As a result many ride bicycles. A burned out headlight (or more commonly no headlight) is a violation and gives the officer a reason to detain and contact the person
That's like saying black people in white neighborhoods are disproportionately criminal, so we had better pull them over randomly.
To the black people and the poor people of America's cities, the police are terrorists in the most literal sense. They walk around with weapons and instill fear. They interfere with people who are completely alone, bothering no one. They inject their presence into situations without being requested by anyone, and believe their weapons give them not only the right to interrupt whatever is going on and demand to heard immediately, and indefinitely, but the right to make demands upon our "attitude." They are, moreover, an occupying force, existing primarily to protect the power of rich white people (which we are not); to keep the powerless in submission. They are not our means of protecting ourselves; they are what we organize to protect ourselves against.
In a study described in the NYT, 96% of black students at one Brooklyn college reported being randomly stopped by police -- several up to 6 times. Why? Because black people in such areas are often career criminals, of course!
No one would hate police if they just left people alone. If they just didn't do anything until someone needed help, no one would hate police, no one would feel the need for protection from them, no one would feel that twinge of anxious fear when a squad car drives by. No one would ever ask themselves, "will I be stopped by this armed stranger and forced to pay homage? Will this armed stranger keep me from my destination, and will he demand I cheerfully thank him for his provision of this service? And if I refuse, if I try to assert a right to be left alone, will I be kidnapped by force, thrown in a cage, and treated there in a way no decent person would treat a dog?"
Police: when you pull someone over for statistical reasons -- because they show some outward indication of poverty, like being black or riding a bike -- you are not only stealing time from them. You are stealing dignity from them. You are stealing life from them. In fact, you are doing something to someone that, if someone did the same to you, would cause you to arrest them.
Reply 11 years ago on Introduction
black people feed into their own stereo type, ?I used to be best friends with a black kid down the street untill he became ghetto trash, it still makes me sad because he was a really nice guy but now hes in jail because of his' hommies'
racial profiling is wrong but when a higher percentage of black people or minorities for that matter are always getting caught for crimes, the statistics dont lie, sue happy lawyers use these same states and say this is racial profiling..
Reply 14 years ago on Introduction
Very well-said. Although a few cops don't do this, many do. I should know, I drove through these neighborhoods and many a time I have been stopped for "driving with long hair". I am as white as they come, but I have long hair (not a mullet, rockstar-hair), and many times simply to harass me so I would leave the area...."I'm making a delivery, pig, I'm paid to be in the area!"
There are "officers of the law" (which I respect, they know the spirit of the law), there are "cops" (probies who do everything by the book), and there are "pigs" (use their authority to vent their high-school frustrations on the world because they need to feel powerful). A few (too many) try to be Robocop instead of being capable of seeing the situation and reacting to it appropriately.
MajHunter seems to be a reasonable "officer of the law", so "present company excluded" when I say that I hate cops and pigs. Here in Washington-state, we have too many "cops", and not enough "officers".
Reply 14 years ago on Introduction
Well, very good response, officer. I have alot more respect for you than I default to most police. I do see your point about the reason for a pursuit, but I will just add that the cop I stopped had been given as much reason as he should have needed. You are the example of the difference between a police officer and a cop. The Passaic county officer mentioned above is a cop. Your patience and humility make you a real police officer. Well done...
Reply 14 years ago on Introduction
"Good cop, bad cop" he's the the good cop. at the end of the day they are all on the same side.
Reply 14 years ago on Introduction
Thank you. Be safe riding out there. Seattle area drivers are crazy. (Was stationed at Fort Lewis and lived in Tacoma when I was in the army.)