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Know Your Rights


What Should I Do If I Am Stopped by Police?

  • Pull over to a safe area on the side of the road, turn off your car, and place both hands on the top of the steering wheel where they can be seen. Do not dig around in your car or glove box for paperwork until asked to do so. Only make slow, deliberate moves.
  • When asked, show your driver's license, registration, and proof of insurance.
  • In certain cases your car can be searched without a warrant, but only if police have probable cause. To protect yourself later, you should make it clear that you do not consent to a search. It is not lawful for police to arrest you simply for refusing to consent to a search.
  • If you are given a ticket, you should sign it; otherwise you can be arrested. You can always fight the case in court later.
  • If you are suspected of drunk driving (DWI) and refuse to take a test (breath, blood, urine, or field sobriety), your driver's license may be suspended and you may be arrested. However, this is still the best course of action if you think you are over the limit, as failing a chemical or physical test will only help the prosecution's case.

What Should I Do If I Am Arrested or Taken to a Police Station?

  • Take advantage of your right to remain silent and your right to talk to a lawyer BEFORE you talk to police. Tell the police NOTHING except your name and address. Do not give any explanations, excuses, or stories. You can make your defense later, in court, based on what you and your lawyer decide is best.
  • If you have a lawyer, ask to call your lawyer immediately. If you can not afford a lawyer, you have the right to a free one once your case goes to court. You can ask the police how a lawyer can be contacted. Do not say anything without a lawyer.
  • Within a reasonable time after your arrest or booking, you should ask the police to contact a family member or friend. If you are permitted to make a phone call, be very careful, and NEVER talk about the facts of the case over the telephone. Anything you say at the precinct may be recorded or listened to.
  • You must be taken before the judge within 24 hours of your arrest. Sometimes you can be released without bail or have bail lowered.

What Should I Do If I Am stopped for Questioning?

  • It is not a crime to refuse to answer questions. You can not be arrested for refusing to identify yourself on the street.
  • Police may stop and detain you only if they have a reasonable suspicion that you have committed, are committing, or are about to commit a crime.
  • If police have reasonable suspicion that you have a weapon, they may perform a frisk and pat down your clothing. Do not physically resist, but make it clear that you do not consent to any further search.
  • Ask if you are under arrest. If you are, you have the right to know why. If you are not, you have the right to leave.
  • Do not bad mouth the police officer or run away, even if you believe what is happening is unreasonable. That could lead to your arrest.

What Should I Do If Police Come to My Home?

  • If the police knock and ask to enter your home, you do not have to let them in unless they have a warrant signed by a judge (ask to see it). However, if they can see an illegal item in plain view from outside the house, then they have a legitimate reason to enter without a warrant.
  • In some emergency situations (like when a person is screaming for help inside, or when police are chasing someone) officers are allowed to enter and search your home without a warrant.
  • If you are arrested in your home or in your office, the police may search you and the “grabbable area” immediately surrounding you, or where illegal items are in plain view.
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