What to do upon Arrest
Hopefully, none of our readers will need to rely on the information given in this article this year. However, it is always good to have a refresher on what to do if you are stopped by the police. Whether you’re stopped in your car or on the street, there are some cardinal rules you should follow. If you do the following, chances are you will come away from the interaction safe and in a much better position if you have to defend yourself in court than you would be otherwise. This information is not intended as legal advice.
First, as with everything, always be polite and respectful. Conduct yourself with decorum and remain calm. Even if you know your rights, it will not be useful to get into an argument with the police. There are very few things you need to get into a discussion about with an officer who has stopped you – because anything you say or do can and will be used against you. You can (and should) say no to any officer asking to search your person or vehicle. Of course, do so in a polite way. There is no need to remind an officer they need a warrant. Simply saying, “No, I do not consent to a search” is enough – remember, it’s their job to get the warrant. You don’t need to remind them!
Always keep your hands where the officer can see them. If you need to retrieve something from a pocket – such as an I.D. – tell the officer where it is. Do not move yet. Explain in a calm, clear voice that your I.D. is contained in your wallet in your pocket. Be specific. Is it your back right or front left pocket? After you have explained the location of the I.D. or object, ask the officer if you can retrieve the I.D. for him or her. Do not move your hands until the officer has explicitly said that you can get it.
Statements to the Police
It’s generally okay to confirm your name, age and address with the police. Beyond that, there is no need to speak with them. Often, they will ask you something designed to get you to admit guilt (‘Do you know why I pulled you over today?’) – try to resist the urge to respond. You should never lie to the police. If you feel a response is warranted, you can say ‘I’m not certain,’ (if that is true) or you can say “I invoke my 5th Amendment right.” This is your right to remain silent. After you have invoked the 5th, either continue to revoke it using that same statement, or do not say anything at all. Never accuse the police of wrongdoing. Do not complain on the scene. Know that you do have the right to make a complaint, but there is no need to make that known to the officer.
If you are arrested…
Do not resist the arrest even if you are innocent. Ask for a lawyer immediately. You must request a lawyer clearly and specifically. Case law has made it clear that even a question like ‘Don’t I get a lawyer?’ is not enough to demonstrate that you have asked for a lawyer. Try to remember the arresting officers’ name and badge number. Once able, write down everything you remember about the incident. If you suffered any injuries, seek out medical treatment if necessary, and take photos. Contact a lawyer as soon as possible.