No one likes getting stopped by the police and it is normal to feel extremely anxious anytime you are interacting with a police officer. Whether it is being pulled over while in your vehicle, having a police officer show up at your door or being stopped while in a public place, the encounter is likely to make you nervous and you might not know what to say or do.
It is important to remember that police officers are usually just trying to do their job. They are most likely trying to get information or learn if a crime is being committed.
When it comes to pulling you over in your vehicle, police officers have reasonable suspicion before pulling you over. This means they see something that makes them believe a crime is being committed. They do not need to have physical evidence to have reasonable suspicion.
If police officers come to your door, you do not need to let them in your home unless they have a search warrant, with some exceptions.
Exercise your right to remain silent
You have rights in these situations. One of the most important rights is your right to remain silent. Most people have heard of this right, since it is the first one read to people when they are arrested. You should always exercise this right.
This means saying nothing, even if the police officers are asking you direct questions. The only information you should give is your name. If you were pulled over in your vehicle, provide your driver’s license and registration if asked. Other than that, say nothing.
You have a right to an attorney. Your request for an attorney should be clear and explicit. Once you request an attorney, police officers should stop questioning you.
However, sometimes the officers might not understand your request if you do not make it direct and unambiguous. Mumbling something about maybe needing an attorney or asking them if you need an attorney might not be understood or taken as a request for an attorney.
You have a right to leave
A right that some people may not realize they have is the right to leave the scene if they are not under detention or arrest. At some point, the police officers must stop questioning you or arrest you. They cannot make an arrest without probable cause.
The way you act can increase your chance of a positive outcome. Stay calm and be honest. Lying or giving the police officers false information is only going to potentially result in additional criminal charges.
Never resist arrest or argue with the police officers. When your rights are violated, the time to fight this is not at the time of the arrest, but the rights violation can be used as part of your criminal defense to argue for a dismissal of the charge.
Remember details about the encounter
Document the interaction with the officers as soon as you can afterwards. Write down the date, time and location of the encounter and the names and badge numbers of the police officers. Write everything that happened, including what everyone said and did and get a copy of the police report.
Facing a criminal charge is stressful and overwhelming. A good defense starts with examining everything that happened from the beginning, from your first interaction with law enforcement.