8 Things to RememberWhen Stopped by Police

We trust police to keep us safe and treat everyone with respect, regardless of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity or national origin.

These tips provide guidance for interacting with police and understanding your rights.

This list is not intended as legal advice.

1. Know Your Rights

  • You have the right to remain silent. If you wish to exercise that right, say so out loud.
  • You have the right to refuse to consent to a search of your person, car or home.
  • If you are not under arrest, you have the right to calmly leave.
  • You have the right to a lawyer if you are arrested. Ask for one immediately.
  • Regardless of your immigration or citizenship status, you have guaranteed constitutional rights.


2. Know Your Responsibilities

  • Stay calm and be polite.
  • Do not interfere with or obstruct officers.
  • Do not lie or provide false documents.
  • Have an action plan for you and your family in the event you are arrested.
  • Take careful notes of your encounter.
  • File a written complaint if you believe your rights have been violated.


3. If you are stopped on the street for questioning

  • Stay calm. Don’t run. Don’t argue, resist or obstruct the police, even if you are innocent and police are violating your rights.
  • Keep your hands where police can see them.
  • Ask if you are free to leave. If the officer says “yes”, calmly and silently walk away.
  • If you are under arrest, you have the right to know why.
  • You have the right to remain silent and cannot be punished for refusing to answer questions. If you wish to remain silent, tell the officer out loud. In some states, you may be required to give your name if asked to identify yourself.
  • You do not have to consent to a personal search or your belongings, but police may ‘pat down’ your clothing if they suspect you have a weapon. You should not physically resist, but you have the right to refuse consent for any further search. If you do consent, it may affect you later in court.


4. If you are stopped in your car

  • Stop the car in a safe place as quickly as possible.
  • Turn off the car, turn on the internal light if it’s dark, open the driver’s window and place your hands on the steering wheel.
  • Do not speak first, or start off with a hostile “What’s the problem”.
  • Let the officer begin the conversation.
  • Do not make the mistake of insisting the officer explain why you were stopped before you will comply.
  • Upon request, show police your driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance.
  • Police are trained to act as if they are not sure if they should issue a ticket or let you go, in order to extract an admission of carelessness, inattention or negligence that can be used later in court. Resist the urge to help the officer decide. Silence is not an admission of guilt and cannot be used in court.
  • If an officer or immigration agent requests to look inside your car, you can refuse consent to the search. But if the police believe your car contains evidence of a crime, your car can be searched without your consent.
  • Both drivers and passengers have the right to remain silent. If you are a passenger, you have the right to ask if you can leave. If the officer says “yes”, sit quietly or calmly leave. Even if the officer says “no”, you have the right to remain silent.


5.  If you are questioned about your immigration status

  • You have the right to remain silent and do not have to discuss your immigration or citizenship status with police, immigration agents or any other officials. You do not have to answer questions about where you were born, whether you are a US citizen or how you entered the country.
  • If you are not a US citizen and an immigration agent requests your immigration papers, you must show them if you have them with you. If you are over 18, you must carry your document with you at all times. If you do not have your immigration papers, say out loud that you want to remain silent.
  • Do not lie about your immigration status or provide false documents.


6. If the police or immigration agents come to your home

  • You do not have to let them in unless they have a certain kinds of warrants.
  • Ask the office to slip the warrant under the door or hold it up to the window so you can inspect it. A search warrant allows police to enter the address listed on the warrant, but officers can only search the areas and for the items listed. An arrest warrant allows police to enter the home of the person listed on the warrant if they believe the person is inside. A warrant of removal/deportation (ICE warrant) does not allow the officers to enter the home without consent.
  • Even if the officers have a warrant, you have the right to remain silent. If you choose to speak to the officers, step outside and close the door behind you.


7. If you feel your rights have been violated

  • Police misconduct cannot be challenged on the street.
  • Do not physically resist officers or threaten to file a complaint.
  • Write down everything you remember, including the officer’s name, badge and patrol car numbers, which agency the officers represent, and any other important details. Get contact information from witnesses. If you are injured, take photographs of your injuries (for severe injuries seek medical attention first).
  • File a written complaint with the agency’s internal affairs division or civilian complaint board. In most cases, you can file a complaint anonymously if you wish.


8. If you are arrested

  • Do not resist arrest, even if you feel the arrest is unfair.
  • Say you wish to remain silent an ask for a lawyer immediately. Do not give any explanation or excuses. If you can not pay for a lawyer, you have the right to a free representation. Do not say anything, sign anything or make any decisions without a lawyer.
  • You have the right to make a local phone call. The police cannot listen if you call a lawyer.
  • Prepare an action plan for you and your family in case you are arrested. Memorize the phone numbers of your family and your lawyer. Make emergency plans if you have children or take medications.

Speak To An Experienced Attorney

The experienced attorneys at Charles G. Monnett III & Associates provide free initial consultations, support and assistance in finding resources to help you and your family deal with serious injuries caused by the negligence of others. We can also help you pursue a legal action. If you or a family member would like more information about your legal options and determine whether you have a claim, call our office today at 704.376.1911 or toll-free 800.977.3077…. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.