It can be a terrifying experience, whether you are driving or walking, to suddenly be stopped by the police. Even if you are well versed in constitutional law, your mind can go blank in that moment. In the event that you remember your rights, it can still be scary to try and assert them to armed officers, particularly if there is a language barrier. However, the more familiar you are with your rights, the more it begins to feel like second nature to voice them and ensure that they are respected. Below is an overview of some of your key rights under the Fourth and Fifth amendments when you are stopped by police.
You have the right to remain silent.
It can be hard to assert your right to remain silent without causing confusion or seeming potentially combative. However, you are not under any obligation to speak to police if you are not under arrest. If they have pulled you over, you can comply with their request for your license and registration and inform them that you will respectfully be invoking your fifth amendment right to silence. If English is a second language, you can keep a small card in your wallet that states that you are invoking your fifth amendment right to silence. If you are unsure of whether you are under arrest it is important to ask. There is a lot of power in asking the question, “Am I under arrest, or am I free to leave?” Police frequently count on people being too intimidated to ask this very question, because if police are not arresting you, they have no right to hold you and must let you go.
You have the right to refuse a search.
This one is huge. Police can be casual and sneaky about the ways they ask for consent to search your car, trunk, backpack, purse, or other belongings. However, the truth is that they would not ask for your consent at all if they had the probable cause they needed to search. So remember, if a police officer is asking you if they can search something of yours, it is because they legally cannot. You have all the power in that moment. If you consent to a search, they no longer need probable cause, and in fact, they can use whatever they find while searching with the limited consent you gave them, to manufacture probable cause to expand the scope of the search. In short, even if you have nothing to hide, exercise your right not to consent to a search. Just to give you an example of how casual these requests can be, it is common for police to walk around protests or parades and simply stop and ask people, “Mind if I see what’s in your bag?” Or “Please open your purse for me.” This may seem like a routine part of protest or festival security, but it is still a request for consent to search, and you have the right to refuse consent. Remember, they would not ask if they did not have to.
You can record police in public.
As long as you are not interfering with police officers’ ability to do their job, you have a right to record them in public, whether they are interacting with you or others. This can be particularly important in protest or large public settings, where it is easy for police to later claim that they had consent to search, or that something transpired providing probable cause, and phone recordings can be evidence to dispute those claims.
Hire a Criminal Lawyer
If your rights have been violated or you are facing criminal charges, our lawyers can help. Contact the experienced lawyers at HAWM Law today and schedule a free consultation.