5 Tips on What To Do and Say When Stopped By Police

With the recent Garner (police chokehold case) and Ferguson cases, many are asking how to interact with police in a safe way. This article gives some general advice on best practices for police interactions, but keep in mind that circumstances may vary. For a personal consultation with an attorney who is experienced in criminal defense, contact David Knecht at davidknechtlaw.com.

1. Remain calm, polite, and non-confrontational.

You must anticipate that a police officer’s first concern will be safety. Remain calm, without making sudden or threatening movements. Comply with the officer’s directions. Even if you assert your rights verbally, you should never physically resist a police officer. Also, as you explain yourself to the officer remain as non-confrontational as possible.

2. You can exercise your right to remain silent in a non-threatening manner.

The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution protects you from self-incrimination. You have the right to remain silent, and you must anticipate that anything you say or do can be used against you. If you are being accused of committing a crime, you can respond, “Officer, I am exercising my 5th right to remain silent.” Or, “I’d like to help you out and I know you are just doing your job, but I’ve
been told that the best thing to do is to remain silent when police ask questions. I’m not trying to be uncooperative.”

3. You can verbally (never physically) refuse to consent to search.

An officer must have probable cause to search a vehicle, but he can do a quick frisk of your person with just reasonable suspicion. You should never resist an officer from physically searching you or your vehicle. You can, however, verbally refuse. When an officer say, “Do you mind if I search your vehicle?” you could respond with something such as, “Officer, I’m sorry but I do not consent to your search of my car, but I won’t do anything to prevent you from doing your job.” An officer will often search your vehicle anyway, but your verbal refusal could help your attorney defend you should evidence against you be found.

4. You can ask if you are free to go.

One fact that is very important, but often obscure, is whether the police are detaining you or whether you are free to go. It may be helpful to ask the officer directly, “Am I being detained, or am I
free to go?” This may help your attorney defend you if evidence of a crime is subsequently discovered.

5. You can ask for an attorney.

If the officer responds that he is detaining you, you have the right to refuse to answer questions and request an attorney. One of the most important aspects of your right to remain silent is that you have to stick with it. Sometime people will invoke their right and then volunteer statements to the police without police even questioning. Remember that anything you say can be used against you, so say as little as possible when you are being detained.

Most police interactions are safe and pleasant. However, where an officer believes he is confronting a potentially dangerous situation, you can help by remaining calm and politely exercising
your rights verbally and never physically resisting the police. For advice, call David Knecht at davidknechtlaw.com.