You don’t ever plan on being detained by a police officer during your life, but it may happen. When it does, you must have a clear understanding of your rights as a citizen, and more importantly, the proper way to conduct yourself during this type of encounter.
The manner in which you behave can defuse tension and lead to a productive dialogue between you and law enforcement personnel. With that in mind, here are some important things to keep in mind when you are stopped by a police officer.
Know Your Rights
When a police officer, or another type of law enforcement official, pulls you over during a routine traffic stop or detains you in another location, certain legal rights are granted to you during these encounters. These rights include:
- The right to remain silent, which only takes effect if you communicate your desire to remain silent.
- The right to refuse permission to a search of your body, your car or your house.
- The right to leave if you are told that you are not under arrest. It is always best to ask the police officer if you can leave before you take that action.
- The right to legal counsel if you are under arrest. It is most advantageous to ask for a lawyer immediately after you are placed under arrest.
- The right to all protections granted by the Constitution, whether or not you are a citizen, permanent resident or undocumented worker.
Know How To Behave
But merely knowing your rights may not be enough to avoid escalating the situation if you don’t know the proper way to conduct yourself during this encounter.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) advises that you follow these protocols:
- Remain calm at all times.
- Never interfere with or obstruct a police officer’s actions.
- If you have chosen to speak, answer all questions truthfully and never give law enforcement officials false documents.
- Keep track of all aspects of your encounter so that you can recount them if the need arises.
- File a formal complaint if you believe the officer acted improperly or violated your rights in any way.
What About Phone Cameras?
It’s rare these days not to see video evidence or video footage of a police encounter that went awry. That’s largely because nearly every citizen owns a mobile phone with video-recording capability, making it easy to begin filming during an interaction with a police officer.
But as ubiquitous as phone video recording has become, you may still be unaware of the legality of filming a police officer.
It is legal to film police officers during an encounter, but if your video recording somehow interferes with their activities then you must stop immediately.
The issue is that police officers may interpret the definition of “interference with activities” differently, which means there is a gray area that may cause an officer to ask you to stop recording even if you don’t believe you are interfering with that officer’s activities.
That’s why several big states – including California, New York and Texas – have considered legislation that would clarify the meaning of “interference” during video recordings of police/citizen encounters.
Fighting On Your Behalf
If you have been arrested for a crime you did not commit, or you believe that your rights were violated during an encounter with the police, contact the law firm of Hardesty, Tyde, Green & Ashton, P.A. at 904-249-9030 for a free legal consultation. Let us show you our commitment to justice.