Interacting with police officers can be a nerve-wracking experience. This is true even if you have done nothing wrong. Below is a guide for how to interact with the police.

What to Do If Police Approach You While You Are on the Street

  1. First and foremost, remember that you have a right to remain silent. The police cannot detain or arrest you simply because you choose not to speak to them. However, keep in mind that this may look standoffish and suspicious.
  2. Tell the police the name and address on your drivers’ license, and be honest. Depending on the type of encounter, showing identification may not be required. However, if you refuse, or refuse to give basic information, you may be arrested. Additionally, if you are being ticketed and you refuse to show your ID, you may be detained longer than necessary. Just give the information and move on.
  3. Ask if you are free to leave. If you are, you should probably politely walk away. If they tell you that you are not, ask them why.
  4. If the police ask you if they can search you or your home, ask them to show you a search warrant. Under certain circumstances, they may be able to conduct a search without a warrant. If the is officer persistent with wanting to search you, make sure you tell the officer clearly that you are not consenting to be searched.
  5. If they do search you, do not resist. Simply and clearly tell them you do not consent to a search. Resisting a search, even if that search is illegal, may result in you being arrested.
  6. If you are detained, or arrested, do not talk to the police more than necessary. Information about your citizenship, employment status, or housing situation is none of their business. Give them basic information, and then tell them you do not want to talk to them anymore without your lawyer.

What to Do If Police Stop You in Your Car

  1. When the officer asks for documents like your license, registration, and proof of insurance, show them to the officer. You do not have to, and should not, show the officer any other types of documents, such as those pertaining to your immigration status.
  2. Keep your hands where the officer can see them and try not to make any sudden movements, especially if the movements are done to try to hide evidence. Remember that while this situation is stressful for you, it is just as stressful for the officer regarding their safety.
  3. If the officer asks to search your car, say no. Do not ever indicate that it is okay for them to search your vehicle. This does not, under any circumstances, mean you should physically resist the officer. They may – and may legally be able to – search your car regardless of whether you consent or not. However, voicing that you do not consent may help you later.
  4. If you are given a ticket, sign it. This does not mean you are admitting guilt. It just means that you are admitting you have received a ticket and will pay it or go to court. Throwing a fit and not complying may result in you unnecessarily being arrested. Keep in mind that once you receive a ticket, you must contest it, ask for an extension, or pay it by the date written. If you do not, you may find your license suspended.

If you are pulled over on suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI), but are not yet arrested and you are over 21, you probably should not submit to field sobriety tests or handheld breathalyzers. These are not required by law, and are rarely helpful. Even in the instances they are helpful, it requires legal savvy to understand how and why, so it is best to avoid field tests altogether. Keep in mind, however, that once you are the station, you are required to submit to chemical testing. If other substances may be in your system, a breath test may be your best option.

What to Do If You Are Arrested

  1. Most Importantly, never forget that you are entitled to a lawyer, even if you cannot afford one.
  2. Only tell the police the identifying information only our drivers’ license. This should probably be limited to your legal name, an address and telephone number, and your birthday. Remember, what you do for a living and the status of your citizenship are none of their business. After you have given them basic information, politely tell the police you want to remain silent and you wish to speak with a lawyer.
  3. Always be honest. Do not make up stories or try to think of alibis. Do not even try to explain your side of the story or how the police are not getting a full picture of the situation. Once the handcuffs shut, so should your mouth. The police have heard all of this before, and have already made the determination that they have enough evidence to arrest you. From this point, anything you say will likely not help your cause, and could in fact hurt your case.

You are entitled to 3 phone calls within 3 hours of your arrest. If you have children, you are entitled to 2 more phone calls to make sure they are taken care of. You may feel like talking to a friend of significant other, but choose wisely whom you decide to call. Calling a lawyer, if you have one, or a bail bond office may help get you released.

Police can make recordings of your phone calls. The only time they cannot is when you call your lawyer. What you say to someone over the phone may be admissible against you. Remember this when you are making your phone calls.

Seek Legal Advice Immediately

This is meant to be a basic guide to help you with interacting with the police. If you are facing a criminal charge, you should consult a criminal lawyer immediately.