Know Your Rights: What to Do If You Are Stopped by Police


We all know how important it is to know your rights when it comes to any kind of interaction with law enforcement. Here is your all-in-one guide on what to do to ensure the smoothest possible interaction with the police, according to the ACLU.

If you are stopped by the police in public:

  • You have the right to remain silent. If an officer asks you what you’re doing, where you’re going, where you live, etc., you do not need to answer them. If you plan on staying silent, tell the officer “I would like to remain silent” loudly and clearly. In some states, you may need to tell an officer your name if they ask you to identify yourself and can be arrested for not doing so.
  • If you do decide to speak, remember that anything you say can be used against you. In order to protect yourself, do not antagonize, interfere with, or obstruct the police.
  • The police cannot conduct a search of yourself or your belongings without your consent. However, an officer may conduct a pat-down if they suspect that you are carrying a weapon. The officer may proceed with a search even if you do not give your consent, but saying “I do not consent to this search” before or during the search can be beneficial to your rights in any future legal proceedings.
  • If you are arrested but cannot afford a lawyer, the government must provide you with one.
  • You do not have to answer any questions regarding your citizenship or how you entered the U.S.

If you are pulled over by the police:

  • Pullover in a safe spot as quickly as possible.
  • Ensure that the car is turned off and the internal light is on before lowering your window part way and placing your hands on the steering wheel. Passengers, place your hands on the dashboard.
  • Drivers and passengers both have the right to remain silent. If you wish to do so, tell the officer “I wish to remain silent” loudly and clearly.
  • Passengers can ask if they are free to leave. Make sure you ask “Am I free to leave?” before silently exiting the car.
  • When asked, show the police your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance. Inform the officer of where each document is before retrieving it and make sure that they can see your hands at all times. Do not make any sudden movements and continually communicate to the officers what you are doing.

Staying calm and remembering your rights can make or break your interaction with the police. If you are arrested or detained, DO NOT say anything, sign anything, or make any decisions without a lawyer.

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