Knowing Your Rights in Police Encounters
At any age and in any setting, encounters with police officers can be intimidating experiences. Although the need for effective law enforcement is obvious, every citizen should feel compelled to know his or rights when confronted by an officer.
The exact regulations for police inquiries vary depending on the physical circumstances and the perceived urgency of the situation. Below are a few things to keep in mind in several different settings.
When Stopped for Questioning…
First of all, you are under no obligation to stop when hailed by police unless they explicitly state that you are being detained. Ask if you are being arrested, and if the answer is yes, ask why. You have a right to know.
After being detained, remember that with the important exception of your name and address, you are not required to answer any further questions, although refusal to do so might increase suspicion.
You are never required to consent to any search of yourself, your car, or your home. Although an officer might pat you down to make sure you are not carrying any concealed weapons, make sure you communicate that you do not consent to any further search.
Never bad-mouth or run away from an officer, or interfere with their actions. Doing any of these can have serious repercussions.
When Stopped in Your Car…
Police can search your vehicle only if they have what is known as “probable cause,” or some reason to suspect that they will find something illegal. To protect yourself later on, again, make it clear that you do not consent to any search.
Always sign your ticket. Refusal to do so can result in arrest.
Refusing to take a blood, urine, or breathalyzer test when suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol can be taken as implicit admission of guilt in some states, and may result in a suspension of your driver’s license.
If Officers Come to Your House…
Always ask to see a warrant before allowing an officer into your home. Other than an extreme condition – for example, someone crying for help from inside – this is the only way in which they can legally step foot inside. However, if you do give them permission to enter, they are free to use anything they find as evidence against you. Be wary of any seemingly benign requests to “come in and have a seat” or the like.
Some Final Things to Keep in Mind
While officers must act in accordance with these regulations, they are under no obligation to tell you the truth. The best thing you can do in any situation is to remain calm, do no more talking than is absolutely necessary (remember your right to remain silent), and do not interfere with anything an officer does, no matter how unjust it may seem.
Police are here to protect and serve, and they must be held accountable for any and all actions they take with the power entrusted to them. If you have been recently arrested and you believe the officer or officers involved acted against the law, you deserve to know your options and how this affects your case. Contact the experienced San Jose criminal law team at the [firm-name] by calling [phone-number] today to find out more.