Your Rights and The Police

What with Senators Exon and the rest of that rat-trap we call a Congress attempting to control what we say and do, I for one have no intention of pulling my material off the Internet anytime soon. With that in mind, I offer the following sound advice, offered up from my notes at a local ACLU seminar...

What you say to the police is important. It can be used against you, and it can give the police an excuse to arrest you, especially if you speak disrespectfully to a police officer.

You do not have to answer a police officer's questions. If you are stopped while driving a car, you must show your driver's license, registration, and proof of insurance. In other situations, you cannot be legally arrested for refusing to identify yourself.

You do not have to give your consent to any search of your person, your car, or your house; if you do consent to a search, it can affect your rights later in court. If the police claim they have a warrant, ask to see it. Whether or not the police have a warrant to search you or your property, you can protect your rights by making it clear that you do not agree to any search.

Do not interfere with, physically resist, or obstruct the police in a search, even if you are sure the search is illegal -- you will be arrested for it. File a complaint afterwards if you feel your rights have been violated.

If confronted by a police officer, you may remain silent. You do not have to answer any questions, give your name, age, or address, or show any ID unless you are operating a car or are in a place where liquor is served. However, it is advisable to provide basic information such as name, age, and address.

Ask if you are under arrest. If so, ask why. If you are not under arrest, you should be free to leave. Insist on that right. Never run from a police officer.

Never physically resist. The police may frisk you for weapons by patting the outside of your clothing, but nothing more. Make it clear that you do not agree to any search. If you are search, do not resist. File a complaint afterwards.

If you are stopped in your car, show your driver's license, registration, and proof of insurance upon request. Your car can be searched without a warrant so long as the officer has probable cause. To protect yourself, make it clean that you do not consent to a search. If given a ticket, sign it; you can be arrested for failing to do so. The proper place to fight a ticket is in court. Your license can be suspended if you refuse to take a breath test if you are stopped for suspected drunk driving.

If you are arrested, go with the officer. Do not resist. Do not answer the officer's questions. Whether or not you are guilty, do not resist arrest. You can make your defense in court. You have the right to remain silent; use it. Tell the police notg except your name, age, and address. Don't give explanations or stories or try to excuse your conduct.

Ask to talk to a lawyer at once. You can do so by phone immediately after being taken into custody. If you are arrested for a jailable offense and you cannot afford a lawyer, you have the right to a public defender. Do not talk to the police until a lawyer is present.

If during a search or an arrest the police take anything from you, they must give you a receipt for every item sezied, including your wallet and its contents, clothes, and any packages you were carrying when arrested.

You may be released with or without bail following the booking. If not, you have the right to go into court and see a judge the next court day after your arrest. Demand this right. When you appear before the judge, ask for an attorney.

Never make any decisions in your case until you have spoken with a lawyer.

This is not complete advice. Be sure to consult a legal professional.

Last Update: June 8, 1997

Created: October 14, 1994 by Elf M. Sternberg