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A guide for interacting with police

Interacting with the police can be stressful, confusing and intimidating. Whether a law enforcement official stops you on the street, pulls you over or shows up to your home, you may not know how to react. In a tense situation like this, it is vital to know your rights and behave appropriately.

The way you act around police officers can make or break any criminal case they may build against you. Here are some general tips on how to handle police encounters.

Know your rights

Your legal rights include the following:

  • You can remain silent.
  • You can refuse a search of your car, home and person.
  • You can get a lawyer if the police put you under arrest.
  • You can calmly leave if you are not in police custody.

State and federal laws, including the Constitution, guarantee you these protections. Understand your rights and invoke them when necessary.

Act appropriately

While you may want to assert your rights instead of doing whatever the police officer says, you should not be disrespectful or dishonest. You should be calm and polite when talking to any law enforcement official. Do not provide false documents or statements. 

When you are under arrest

If a cop puts you under arrest, do not resist even if you think it is unfair. State that you wish to remain silent and want to talk with a criminal defense attorney immediately. 

If the police violate your rights

Unfortunately, some police officers do not follow protocol or laws. Common police violations include:

  • Excessive force
  • False arrest
  • Malicious prosecution
  • Unlawful search and seizure
  • Entrapment

If you are a victim of police misconduct, document everything you remember about the situation. Your lawyer may be able to get the prosecutor to drop any charges against you if the police are in violation of the law. 

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