Even with setting aside the current pandemic, we are enduring a very turbulent time in our country as police and race relations sit atop a seemingly never-ending list of controversial and debated subjects across political, cultural and social aisles.
While law enforcement officers swear to abide by a code of conduct and to show respect to those they interact with unless extreme circumstances present themselves, it is evident that some officers disregard the oath they swore to uphold. Other officers are respectful and treat every suspect the same, and that’s the problem. It has become difficult for the average American to know which officer can be trusted to not infringe on their rights or use excessive force in situations where force is not warranted.
Whether you are confronted by the police during a vehicle stop, questioning on the street, or a home visit, you have rights, including:
- Your right to remain silent: If you choose to act upon this right, address the officer calmly and state that you “choose to remain silent.”
- Your right to unlawful search and seizure: A person’s constitutional right to “unlawful search or seizure” protects you in the event of law enforcement wanting to search your vehicle, person, or home unless you voluntarily consent or the officer has an official search warrant.
- Your right to calmly leave if you are not under arrest: Be sure to ask the officer if you can go.
- Your right to an attorney: If you get arrested, you have a right to seek counsel. If you can’t afford an attorney, the state must provide one for you.
If you do end up having to speak with law enforcement, consider following the actions listed below to minimize the risk of escalation.
- Even if pent-up agitation is beginning to rise, you must remain calm and control your actions and words.
- Under any circumstances, do not flee the scene, argue, interfere with, or resist the officers on the scene.
- As mentioned above, if you don’t want to answer any question, other than necessary identifying information, calmly tell the officer, “I would like to remain silent.”
- To refuse a search, state, “I do not consent to a search.”
- Write down everything you remember, including the police badge number, the police car’s number, and any other details from the interaction. If you are accompanied by somebody, have them video the interaction as evidence in case the officer violates your rights.
- If you are a minor, relay the entire interaction to your parents or guardian in as much detail as possible.
- If you are an immigrant or in the process of seeking citizenship, you do not have to discuss these details.
Lastly, if you feel your rights were violated, seek a proper criminal defense attorney and file a complaint with the police department’s internal affairs division or a civilian board in the correct jurisdiction.