|WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF STOPPED BY THE POLICE?|
Keith L.T. Wright
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I’M STOPPED BY THE POLICE?
That’s a question many of you must have asked yourself as you watched and read about the fates of Amaddou Diallo and Sean Bell and the atrocious crime committed on Abner Louima.
It’s important however to note that most police officers are decent professionals who are committed to serving the community and conducting themselves as New York’s finest. They deserve our gratitude, our trust and our support and respect. The big problem you face however, is that you never know when the officer who stops you is the model cop, or one about to come a "rogue cop" at your expense.
It is therefore important that you know your rights, and also how to preserve your rights, and your life.
This pamphlet, prepared with advice by the ACLU and printed with permission of the ACLU, provides you with helpful information. My thanks to Norman Siegel of the ACLU for allowing me to share the information and advice with you.
Notwithstanding anything you read in this pamphlet, please remember that your life is always worth much more than your constitutional rights.
Use good judgment and stay out of jail.
IN YOUR HOME
1. If the police knock and ask to enter your home, you don’t have to admit them unless they have a warrant signed by a judge.
2. However, in some emergency situations (like when a person is screaming for help inside, or when the police are chasing someone) officers are allowed to enter and search your home without a warrant.
3. If you are arrested in your home or in your office, the police may search you and the "grabbable area" immediately surrounding you or where criminal activities are in plain view.
We all recognize the need for effective law enforcement, but we should also understand our own rights and responsibilities - especially in our relationships with the police. Everyone, including minors, has the right to courteous and respectful police treatment.
If your rights are violated, don’t try to deal with the situation at the scene. You can discuss the matter with an attorney afterwards, or file a complaint with the Civilian Complaint Review Board.IF YOU ARE STOPPED FOR QUESTIONING
1. Police may stop and detain you only if they have a reasonable suspicion that you have committed, are committing or you are about to commit a crime.
2. Ask if you are under arrest. If you are, you have a right to know why.
3. Don’t badmouth the police officer or run away, even if you believe what is happening is unreasonable. That could lead to your arrest.
4. Police can’t lawfully require that you identify yourself or produce identification if they don’t reasonably suspect you are involved in a crime. But use your judgment - refusal could lead to your arrest even if unjustified.
5. If police have reasonable suspicion to believe you have a weapon, they may perform a frisk and pat down your clothing. Don’t physically resist, but make it clear that you don’t consent to any further search.IF YOU’RE STOPPED IN YOUR CAR
1. Upon request, show them your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance. In certain cases, your car can be searched without a warrant as long as the police have probable cause. To protect yourself later, you should make it clear that you do not consent to a search. It is not lawful for police to arrest you simply for refusing to consent to a search.
2. If you’re given a ticket, you should sign it; otherwise you can be arrested. You can always fight the case in court later.
3. If’ you’re suspected of drunk driving (DWI) you will be asked to take breath-alcohol and coordination tests. If you fail the tests, or if you refuse to take them you will be arrested, your driver’s license may be suspended and your car may be taken away.IF YOU’RE ARRESTED OR TAKEN TO A POLICE STATION
1. You have the right to remain silent and to talk to a lawyer before you talk to the police. Tell the police nothing except your name and address. Don’t give any explanations, excuses or stories. You can make your defense later, in court, based on what you and your lawyer decide is best.
2. If you have a lawyer, ask to see your lawyer immediately. If you can’t afford a lawyer, you have a right to a free one once your case goes to court. You can ask the police how a lawyer can be contacted.DON’T SAY ANYTHING WITHOUT A LAWYER.
1. Within a reasonable time after your arrest, or booking, you should ask the police to contact a family member, or friend. If you are permitted to make a phone call, anything you say at the precinct may be recorded or listened to. Be very careful, and never talk about the facts of your case over the telephone.
2. Sometimes you can be released without bail or have bail lowered. You must be taken before the judge within 24 hours after arrest.
3. Do not make any decisions in your case until you have talked with a lawyer.WHAT TO DO IF YOU’RE STOPPED BY THE POLICE...
If You Have A Police Encounter, You Can Protect Yourself.
1. What you say to the police is always important. What you say can be used against you, and it can give the police an excuse to arrest you, especially if you bad-mouth a police officer.
2. You don’t have to answer a police officer’s questions, but you must show your drivers license and registration when stopped in a car. In other situations, you can’t legally be arrested for refusing to identify yourself to a police officer.
3. You don’t have to consent to any search of yourself, your car or your house. If you DO consent to a search, it can affect your rights later in court. If the police say they have a search warrant, ASK TO SEE IT.
4. Do not interfere with, or obstruct the police - you can be arrested for it.
The information in this pamphlet was produced by the American Civil Liberties Union and Used with Permission
Assemblyman Keith Wright
Harlem State Office Bldg.,
163 W. 125th St., Suite 911,
New York, NY 10027