Getting stopped by the police, whether on the street or in a vehicle, can be stressful. It’s important to know your rights.
First, you have the right to remain silent.
You don’t have to answer any questions. Your right to remain silent is found in the 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
But you have to specifically tell the officer: “I want to remain silent.” Just remaining silent, without saying: “I want to remain silent” is not enough, according to a 2010 Supreme Court ruling.
Typically most people tell the officer firmly and politely that they “don’t want to answer any questions until speaking with their lawyer,” and that ends it.
Second, you don’t have to consent to a search.
You don’t have to let the police search you, your bags, your car or your home. Don’t agree to search, or sign a consent to search form, unless it is what you want to do. Don’t feel pressured to agree to a search and don’t be tricked by promises.
But, the police are allowed to frisk for weapons, if they believe someone may be presently armed and dangerous. The police may also get a search warrant, and if they do, you have to let them in.
Third, if you are not under arrest, you have the right to go.
You can ask the officer if you are free to leave. If you are, you have the right to (calmly) leave. If you are under arrest, you have the right to know the charge.
Most Importantly: If you are arrested, you have the right to a lawyer
This is the most important right, because when you ask to speak with a lawyer, all police questioning must stop. Your right to a lawyer is found in the 6th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Use it.
Again, the magic words are: “I want to speak with a lawyer before answering any questions.” Once you say these words, police questioning must stop.
A call to your lawyer can be a big help in many ways. (After a reasonable time, the police have to let you make one phone call)
A lawyer can explain the charges, assist you with getting released, and make sure your rights are protected from day one.
The Zukerberg Law center accepts collect calls from all jails and detention centers, or you can call us toll free at 888.473.1707.
Paul Zukerberg, Criminal Defense Lawyer