Your Rights Against the Police
Police rarely ask questions they don't already have the answers to. When a member of law enforcement stops you for any reason, it is important for you to know that you do not have to answer any questions. It is not against the law to refuse to speak to the police. They are hoping that you talk to much or say something that will make their job easier. There are no "simple questions" when it comes to law enforcement. Unless they are investigating a traffic accident, you can be sure that they want more information either about you or someone else. Remember that anything you say can and will be used against you in court. It is in your best interest not to try to talk yourself out of the situation, and it's best not to make small talk with them either. If you are innocent, it is especially important not to talk to the police until you have a lawyer. Our prisons are full of people who claim they are innocent, and many of those people are actually telling the truth.
There is nothing you can say that can help you. If you are stopped and asked to identify yourself, you should show your driver's license or any other form of identification. If you have reason to fear that your name is incriminating, then you can claim the right to remain silent, which can possibly be a defense in case you are arrested anyway. It is not a good idea to try to pass a phony name or try to pass as someone other than you, it is against the law to give a fake name to law enforcement. Usually the first questions addressed to you is if you have been arrested before and if you are currently on probation or parole. You want to answer these two questions and you want to make sure to give the correct answer. This helps the police to determine who they are dealing with, lying to them will only make things worst on yourself later. You do not have to answer any questions after that, it is your civil right to politely tell them you do not wish to answer any more questions without your lawyer present. The only thing you should be saying to them is "I want to speak with my lawyer" and "am I free to go". Remember, nothing you say will clear your name.
Police are trained to be suspicious of everything, and are commended for convictions. Understand that if the police are talking to you, it is because they already believe you to be a suspect. Police interrogations are used to gather more evidence that can be used against you at a later time. They are hoping for a confession of some kind, they will twist your every word to work in their favor. It is critical you understand the rules they are operating under:
Nothing you can say can prove you innocent- everything you say, no matter how innocent a statement may be, can be used to prove you guilty. The officer you are talking to has been doing this for years, he or she will know how to trip you up to say things that are not entirely true. Limit your exposure. Police are paid to get convictions, and they're allowed to lie, intimidate, offer false deals, fabricate details, and this is all perfectly legal.
Knowing your rights will save you every time - you have the right to remain silent. You have the right not to have your vehicle or home searched, except under a search warrant. You have a right to a lawyer. These are absolute rights, your "Miranda Rights," 1966 United States Supreme Court case, Miranda v. Arizona . Police cannot force you to wave your rights, however they can push you to give them up yourself without knowing what happened
The police may pat you down and search your clothing if they suspect you have a concealed weapon. Do not physically resist, but make it clear that you do not give your consent to any further search. Anything in "plain sight," meaning it can be seen through your windows, from the street, can be cause for an arrest and to obtain a search warrant. Keep your house and car clear of anything that can cause suspicion. Do not talk to officers through an open door or an open window. Speak through a closed window, crack the window, or offer to call dispatch on the phone and speak that way. Officers will take advantage of open doors and windows to smell the area around you, your breath, and to do a deeper search into your vehicle or home. Leaving the door open is an like an invitation to allowing the police inside your home. It is in your best interest not to open the door for them, let them break down your door; they must have a warrant to do so. If you must leave your home or car, close windows completely, have your form of identification and your keys, step out quickly, and lock the door behind you. The police cannot enter without a search warrant.
Make sure you keep your hands where the police can see them at all times. You never want to try and flee the scene or put your hands on any police officers. Do not resist arrest or tell the officer they are wrong. Do not make any statements regarding the incident, and try to remember the officer's badge number and patrol car number.
How to invoke your rights with the police
There is no "one call" when you're arrested. The police may give you as many, or as few calls as they wish. However you have a right to legal representation, and the police must allow you to contact a lawyer. If you are participating in any form of criminal activity it is in your best interest to obtain a lawyer even when you do not need them. Get their off-hours number and keep it on you at all times. In the event that you do need a lawyer you will know who to call and they will already have a plan for bail and a safe place for you to stay. Finding a lawyer from jail can be stressful and difficult. The lawyer you get to help you with police does not have to be the one you use if and when you go to court. Whenever possible, record (via video, photograph, audio recording) as much of the situation as possible if you are concerned about being improperly questioned or searched. You always have the right to record yourself when faced with the police. Police sometimes do things wrong. If the police are violating your rights, do not resist - this can result in actual charges being brought against you. If they say you are under arrest, or begin forcing their way in, make it clear that you do not consent, but do not physically act to resist. Police misconduct can result in evidence or charges being thrown out - ultimately the best situation for you.
The information presented is only meant to give information, not to offer any legal advice. Follow the instructions of law enforcement officers at all times for your own safety and theirs.
© 2010 Cassandra