Interacting with police officers may be unpleasant, and things can quickly get out of hand. It’s imperative that you are knowledgeable of your legal rights and what an officer can legally ask of you in these situations. Most importantly, you have to know what things you should do in specific situations to minimize your risks of any negative police encounter and to protect yourself ultimately when the situation escalates.
Of course, staying calm and not displaying hostility toward the authorities may help you lower your risk. However, the truth is that there have been instances where people have done everything they can to put an officer at ease, only to be injured or taken advantage of in general. Here, we explain what the law requires in dealing with police interactions.
Your Basic Rights When Asked To Stop By The Police
Right to Remain Silent
It’s always crucial to pay attention to what you say to the cops. Your statements can be taken against you later on. You can stay silent until the presence of your lawyer. You don’t even need to respond to any questions about where you came from or where you are headed to.
You may also say it out loud that you want to remain silent as an indication that you are exercising your right to it. Take note, however, that in some states you are required to identify yourself if you are requested to do so. Otherwise, you may be arrested.
In cases when you are asked to present your driver’s license, proof of insurance, and registration, then do so as this is usually part of their protocols.
Right Not to be Searched (Yourself or Your Possessions)
You never have to agree to a search of yourself or your possessions, including any of your electronic devices or your vehicle itself. Consenting to a search may impact your legal rights when you reach court later on.
As mentioned, you don’t need to submit to a search of yourself or your items, but they may pat down your clothing if there is a reasonable suspicion for a weapon. Although asserting not to be searched may not prevent the police from conducting the search against your assertion, objecting before or during the search may help in protecting your rights in any subsequent legal proceedings.
Right to Have a Lawyer
If you have a lawyer, make an appointment with him or her right away. If you cannot afford a New Jersey criminal lawyer, you have the right to a free one or a government-appointed lawyer if your case proceeds to court. You can politely ask the cops how to get in touch with a lawyer as this is absolutely your right and should not, in any circumstances, be refused to you.
Also, keep in mind to not speak to the police any further about what happened without first consulting a lawyer. You may provide your basic information like your name, but nothing further than that.
Note: Basic information can go only as far as your name and address as you are not required to answer questions concerning your citizenship status or birthplace. However, bear in mind that there are separate laws that govern airports and international borders and those who are on nonimmigrant visas like business travelers and tourists.
Reducing The Risks For Yourself
- Do not dispute with cops or disparage them. If you want to complain or tell the cops they’re wrong, do it in a non-aggressive manner that won’t escalate the issue.
- Maintain control over your words, body language, and facial expressions by remaining calm. As mentioned above, anything that you say or do may be taken against you.
- Do not flee or in any way leave the situation unless you have been permitted to do so.
- Even if you think you are innocent, do not physically resist at any point of your encounter.
- Keep your hands visible to the police as doing so may add suspicion to the police officers.
- Keep a strong memory and jot down any information that you think may be needed later on, such as badge numbers, police officers’ names, patrol car numbers, and even business cards. You should also take note of physical descriptions as much as possible.
- Writing down the name of your potential witnesses and their contact numbers would also greatly help in case your situation escalates.
Even though you think you won’t get into trouble, you don’t really know what can happen on the street while driving or even just walking. This is why it’s crucial that you know the things you should do in case you find yourself in these situations. You may not save yourself to go to court, but you may save yourself when you are questioned in court. It pays to be knowledgeable of your rights and to be prepared with anything potentially worst.