Today’s news is filled with negative and, sometimes, downright violent interactions between the public and Police or other Government Authorities.
I understand that nervous sinking feeling you get in your stomach when you see the blue lights from a police vehicle in your rearview mirror.
In that moment, a series of thoughts probably run through your head:
“Was I speeding?”
“Do I have a broken taillight?”
“Is my license tag expired?”
Then, you might start worrying how the next few minutes will play out. And based on what you’ve seen on the news, you might have reason for concern.
But, you also have rights.
When you understand your rights, and assert them in a respectful manner while interacting with Government Authorities, you strengthen your position during that unsettling moment, and in a Court of Law while represented by an experienced attorney.
I’ve provided details below on your rights along with your responsibilities when stopped by any authority agency. I appreciate the ACLU for providing these excellent and straightforward details and tips to handle various scenarios.
By the way, while I recommend you familiarize yourself with these rights, I know it’s easy to get rattled and scattered during a tense situation. That’s why it’s important to keep my phone number, (904) 567-3113, handy just in case you need a refresher on your rights during a traffic stop.
Your Constitutional Rights and Your Responsibilities
Always keep in mind, you have constitutional rights and freedoms during any routine traffic stop to on-the-spot questioning.
The top two listed are critical regardless of whether you’ve committed a traffic violation or a crime! I always remind my friends, family and clients to never forget:
- YOU have the right to remain silent.
- YOU have the right to an Attorney.
Now, Let’s Read What the ACLU Says:
- You have the right to remain silent. If you wish to exercise that right, say so out loud and in a respectful manner.
- You have the right to privacy which means you have a right refuse a search of your person, your vehicle, and/or your home.
- If you are not under arrest or being detained for a criminal investigation, you have the right to terminate the encounter and respectfully walk away.
- You have the right to a Lawyer if you are being investigated for an alleged crime or under arrest. Ask for an Attorney immediately! Government agencies must terminate all questioning once you have invoked your right to an Attorney.
- Regardless of your immigration or citizenship status, you have constitutional rights.
- Stay calm, respectful, and polite.
- Do not interfere with or obstruct the law enforcement during an investigation.
- Do not mislead, lie, or give false documents.
- Keep Fusco Law’s number on hand in case of an emergency.
- Remember the details of the encounter with law enforcement and jot down notes if necessary.
- If you feel that your Constitutional Rights were violated by Law Enforcement, contact ACLU and Fusco Law immediately.
How to Apply Your Rights When Stopped by Authorities
The following scenarios covers many routine “stops” by authorities that you might encounter. Before sharing various scenarios, I’ll just add my three vital tips I share with my friends, family and clients:
- Remain calm and respectful.
- Respectfully inform the authorities that you are invoking your right to remain silent.
- In conjunction with your right to remain silent, clearly state to the authorities that you are not answering any questioning without an Attorney from Fusco Law present.
If Stopped in Your Vehicle
If there are police lights telling you to pull over, quickly find a safe place to do so.
- Turn off your vehicle.
- Turn on the internal light.
- Open the window part way.
- Place your hands on the steering wheel.
When requested, show the officer your:
- Driver’s license
- Vehicle registration
- Proof of insurance
If Officer asks to look inside your car—YOU can refuse to consent to a search. Law Enforcement must have probable cause that a crime was committed or is being committed.
Both driver and passengers have the right to remain silent.
- Passengers can ask if they are free to leave.
- If yes, passengers can either sit silently or calmly leave.
- If not, passengers can remain silent.
If Stopped for Questioning
Always remain calm. Even if you are innocent or feel Police are violating your rights keep your hands visible and don’t:
- Obstruct Police
You have the right to ask if you are free to leave:
- If yes, calmly and silently walk away.
- If you are placed under arrest or being detained, respectfully ask the basis for the detention. Then respectfully ask for your Attorney at Fusco Law to be present before any questioning.
You can exercise your right to remain silent:
- You cannot be punished for refusing to answer questions.
- Tell the officer in a respectful manner that you are remaining silent unless your Attorney is present.
You do not have to CONSENT to a search of your person or belongings:
- Police may pat you down if they suspect you have a weapon.
- Do not physically resist.
- You have the RIGHT to refuse the search.
- Keep in mind, consent to a search can impact you later in court.
If You Are Arrested
Most important: Do not resist arrest! Even if you’re innocent or think the arrest is unfair, be respectful. Law Enforcement will never change their mind after an arrest is made, regardless what you say or do.
State out loud:
- Your wish to REMAIN SILENT.
- Ask for an Attorney IMMEDIATELY.
Understand that you do not have to provide any explanations or excuses for your rights.
You are allowed to:
- Make a local phone call.
- All phone calls made at the jail are being recorded so don’t discuss the details of your arrest.
- Police CANNOT record the phone call if you are speaking with an Attorney. The conversation is privileged and cannot be used against you.
Always be prepared in case you are arrested:
- Memorize phone numbers of family members and your Attorney–(904) 567-3113.
- Make emergency plans if you have children or take medication.
If You Feel Your Rights are Violated
Understand that police misconduct cannot be challenged on the street:
- Don’t physically resist.
- Don’t threaten to file a complaint.
Stay alert and memorize everything that happens to you. Write down:
- Officer’s badge and patrol car numbers
- Agency Officers are from
- Any details regarding your arrest
- If injured during the arrest, seek medical attention AND take photos of your injuries
You are allowed to file a WRITTEN and anonymous complaint with the agency’s Internal Affairs or Civilian Complaint Board.
If you have any questions, give me a call. I’ll be happy to explain your constitutional rights: (904) 567-3113