Any encounter with law enforcement officials can be intimidating. It should be comforting to know that you have clearly delineated rights and that there are a number of both legal and societal responsibilities that can help you navigate the process of dealing with authority.
If you’re looking for a “How to get out of a ticket” article, click here. This particular piece outlines your constitutional rights and responsibilities. Plus, it makes several recommendations to avoid incriminating yourself. If you are particularly concerned about any legal issues, please seek professional legal assistance.
Your Basic Rights
The ACLU, American Civil Liberties Union, put together a helpful 10-page pamphlet outlining what to do if you find yourself in a confrontation with law enforcement. Here’s a reminder of your rights:
“You have the right to refuse to consent to a search of yourself, your car or your home.” That’s essentially the fourth amendment of the constitution right there.
“If you are not under arrest, you have the right to calmly leave.” However, only exercise this right if you’ve received an affirmative response when asking, “Am I free to leave?”.
“You have the right to a lawyer if you are arrested.” Politely asking for a lawyer is one of the few things you should choose to say out loud.
“Regardless of your immigration or citizenship status,” the ACLU stresses, “you have constitutional rights.”
“Do stay calm and be polite.” This can include saying “Sir” or “ma’am” and either keeping your hands visible or placing them calmly behind your back.
“Do not interfere with or obstruct the police.
“Do not lie or give false documents.
“Do prepare yourself and your family in case you are arrested.” If you are afraid of being arrested, write a confidant’s or lawyer’s phone number on your arm and give them the pertinent information that they will need to help you while in custody.
“Do remember the details of the encounter.”
The ACLU encourages you to: “Stop the car in a safe place as quickly as possible. Turn off the car, turn on the internal light, open the window part way and place your hands on the wheel.
“Upon request, show police your driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance.” Keep these materials in an easy-to-find location. You may want to inform the officer that you are calmly reaching for these documents.
“If you are a passenger, you can ask if you are free to leave. If the officer says yes, sit silently or calmly leave. Even if the officer says no, you have the right to remain silent.”
“If you are not a U.S. citizen and an immigration agent requests your immigration papers, you must show them if you have them with you. If you are over 18, carry your immigration documents with you at all times. If you do not have immigration papers, say you want to remain silent.”
Finally, the ACLU reiterates, “Do not lie about your citizenship status or provide fake documents.”
Much to Consider
The ACLU goes further into detail about what to do if law enforcement officials come to your home, arrest you, take you into custody, or if there is a violation of your rights. Visit their website to get the full rundown of what you can and should do when you encounter the police, ICE, FBI, or other law enforcement agents.
One of the ACLU’s most important tips is that “police misconduct cannot be challenged on the street. Don’t physically resist officers or threaten to file a complaint.” That will not help you at all.
Hopefully, this information is useful to you and your loved ones.
Si conoces a alguien que se necesita esta información en Español, visita esta pagina de la ACLU.