Know Your Rights: You and the Police

This is not complete advice. Be sure to consult a lawyer if you have questions concerning your rights.

What you say to the police is always important. What you say can be used against you, and it can give the police a reason to arrest you, especially if you “bad mouth” a police officer.

You do not have to answer a police officer’s questions, but you must show your driver’s license and registration when stopped in a car. In other situations, you cannot legally be arrested for refusing to identify yourself to a police officer.

You do not have to give your 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.

Do not physically interfere with or obstruct the police – you can be arrested for it. If you have contact with the police, it is helpful to get their names and badge numbers.

If You Are Stopped for Questioning
1. It is not a crime to refuse to answer questions, although refusing to answer can make the police suspicious about you. You cannot be arrested merely for refusing to identify yourself on the street.

2. The police may “pat-down” your clothing if they suspect a weapon to check for concealed weapons. Do not physically resist, but make it clear that your 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.

If You Are Stopped In Your Car
1. Show your driver’s license and registration upon request. Your car can in certain cases be searched without a warrant so long as the police have probable cause. To protect yourself later, you should make it clear that you do not 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 drunken driving and refuse a blood, urine or breath test, your driving license can be suspended.

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 explanations, excuses or stories. You can make your defense 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 talk without a lawyer.

3. Within three hours after you are arrested, or immediately after being booked, you have the right to make two free complete phone calls in the local dialing area: (1) to a lawyer, (2) a bail bondsman, (3) 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 (“O.R.”) or have bail lowered. Ask the judge about it. 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.

If You Are Abused By The Police