What to do if you're stopped, questioned, searched or arrested by the police.
The biggest mistake you can make when you are stopped, questioned, searched or arrested by a police officer is to think that you can back the police officer off by threatening him/her with a lawsuit, news coverage or even worse physical harm. Never try to threaten or outsmart a police officer. Instead, be courteous and cooperative, keeping your rights in mind to determine what you should or should not say.
If the police officer is wrong for stopping, searching, questioning or arresting you, there are things you can do LATER! This includes filing a complaint with their commanding officer, Internal Affairs, the Civilian Review Complaint Board and possibly suing the officer and the police department. But at the time you are confronted by a police officer, they have the power! Your power is in deciding what if anything you are going to say or allow the police officers to do.
You can get a free printable card with your rights from the American Civil Liberties Union.
Things not to do when stopped, questioned, searched or arrested by the police.
- Do not run away. Running away will likely trigger a chase response from the officers and make you a much more likely suspect to them and a jury.
- Do not make sudden moves or reach for things in you pockets. Such moves can be seen by the cop as a threat that he/she may react to with physical force.
- Do not mouth off at the officers or argue with them. When someone starts yelling at them, most police officers think that the person is trying to hide something.
- Do not touch or reach for the officer under any circumstances. This will often be met with a physical force reaction from the officer.
- Do not tell them that you are going to sue them or get back at them. There's plenty of time to actually do this later.
Things you should do when stopped, questioned, searched or arrested by the police.
- Unless you have a real good reason not to (such as an outstanding warrant), give your name and address to the police officer and show them your proper identification if they request it. This can keep you from being taken into custody when an appearance ticket can be issued instead.
NEVER give them a false name or address.
- Sign a ticket if asked to by the police. It is not an admission of guilt and can keep you from being taken into custody when an appearance ticket can be issued instead.
- If the police want to search your apartment/house and they say they have a search warrant, ask to see it before allowing them into your home.
- NEVER try to physically stop the police from entering or searching your house or car or searching you, BUT make it clear that you have not given them permission to do so. This will protect your right to later claim that it was an illegal stop or search.
- You should not speak with the police or give them a statement if you feel that you are or might be a suspect. Simply tell them that you would like to speak with a lawyer before any questioning.
- Do not give the police permission to look at or inspect your cell phone. If they grab it from you, do not resist, but make it clear that you are not giving them permission.