Protecting your civil rights while interacting with law enforcement.
What can the police do and not do? Can they search my car? Can they search me? Can they force me to show identification? Do they have to read me my rights? When can I be arrested?
These are just a few of the many questions people have about their interaction with law enforcement. Prior to addressing these issues, it is prudent to mention of a couple of ways to help avoid problems with the police.
Don’t ever force a confrontation with the police
Even if you believe you are 100% correct, do not antagonize police officers. Much like any profession there are some good officers and some bad officers, but they all have a job to do. The quickest way to find yourself injured “resisting arrest” is to challenge the police and tell them what they can and cannot do. You might be armed with your constitutional rights, but they are armed with guns, mace, tasers and batons. If you feel your rights are being violated, do not physically resist the police but do state calmly and clearly that you do not give permission or consent to a search of your body, car, house, etc. The best place to vigorously fight violations of your constitutional rights is the courthouse, not on the roadside.
Do not leave your vehicle (unless ordered by the police)
Traffics stops are dangerous for the police and can be for you as well. Never leave your vehicle voluntarily even if you have a good reason. The police do not know you and do not know your intentions and will likely fear the worst. The key thing to remember is the police can’t read your mind and will assume you are a threat if you leave your vehicle.
- Can the police force me to show identification? It depends on local law but some believe that It is likely in your best interest to produce identification if requested by law enforcement to avoid further more invasive inquiries and confrontation.
- When can I be stopped and searched? Generally, the Fourth Amendment requires that the police have a reasonable suspicion that a crime has been, is being, or is about to be committed before stopping a suspect. If the police reasonably suspect the person is armed and dangerous, they may conduct a quick pat-down of the person’s outer clothing.
- Do the police have to read me my rights? Yes, they do. However, the remedy for this type of violation is the suppression of any information that incriminates you or others in your criminal trial.