It's something that no one ever wants to experience . . . getting questioned by police. Even when you know you are innocent or you did absolutely nothing wrong, you still get a little nervous. It happens to everyone. In many cases, you were just unfortunate enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
As a DUI defense lawyer, I have seen my fair share of individuals being unlawfully stopped and questioned by police. Most people just don't know their rights in most situations when they involve law enforcement. Just because they ask to come into your house - you don't have to let them! Just because they ask you to do a field sobriety test - you don't have to participate!
According to the ACLU, there are some basic rights that everyone should be aware of if they end up getting questioned by police. The ACLU speaks to a variety of circumstances, but I want to focus on what you need to know when police stop you while you are driving and what happens when you are arrested.
(1) What should you do if you are stopped in your car:
- Stop the car in a safe place as quickly as possible: Turn the car off, turn an internal light on, open the window part way, and place your hands on the wheel.
- Be prepared to show the officer your driver's license, proof of insurance, and registration. It is a good idea to always have your license on you and to keep proof of insurance and your vehicle registration in your car.
- If an officer asks for the ability to search your car, you can refuse. However, if the police have reason to believe that your car contains evidence of a crime, it may be searched with or without your consent.
- You have the right to remain silent whether you are a passenger or a driver in the car. If you are a passenger, you have the right to calmly ask the officer if you are free to leave. If the officer says yes, you may leave or remain and stay silent. If the officer says no, you can still remain silent.
(2) What should you do if you are arrested:
- Do not resist arrest. Even if you believe that the arrest is unfair, it is never a good idea to struggle or resist arrest.
- Tell the officer that you wish to remain silent and you want to speak to your lawyer immediately. This request must be clear. Don't try to give any excuses or explanations regarding the recent events that led up to the arrest. If you cannot afford a lawyer, you will be provided with one. Do not say anything, sign anything, or or make decisions without your lawyer.
- You have the right to make a local phone call. The police are prohibited from listening to a phone call that is made to your lawyer.
- Plan ahead of time: While no one expects to be arrested, it never hurts to prepare for something like this. This is especially true if you have children or take medication. It is a good idea to memorize phone number of family members or close friends.
- There are additional circumstances if you are a non-citizen. In this case, you should ask your lawyer what a criminal conviction or a plea might do to your immigration status. Do not discuss your immigration status with anyone besides your lawyer. If you are visited or contacted by an immigration agent, you should consult with your lawyer before talking to the agent.
Do you have further questions about your rights after you have been arrested? Do not hesitate to contact my office in order to schedule a consultation and we can discuss the specific facts of your case.