What To Do If The Police Stop Me To Talk

What to Do If the Police Stop Me to Talk To Me?

Recently I had a client who was stopped coming out of his vehicle at night by a police officer.  The officer just stopped to talk to the client and “fish” for more information because, as the officer put it “he was in a bad area at a suspicious time” and “I suspected he was up to no good.”  The client, although lawfully stopped, should have followed a few simple rules.  He was ultimately arrested, arguably illegally, and has been charged with some serious crimes.  In order to better protect yourself, you should follow some simple advice.

1.         Stay calm.  Don’t run, don’t argue, resist, or obstruct a police officer.  You get more bees with honey!  Even if you are innocent or the police are violating your rights or profiling you, make sure you don’t give them a reason to arrest you.  Keep your hands where they can see them and speak slowly and calmly. 

2.         The first question out of your mouth should be “am I free to leave.”  If the officer says yes, calmly and silently walk away.  If you are placed under arrest, you have a right to know why.  If you are under arrest, keep your mouth shut!  The Fifth Amendment gives you the right to remain silent; we suggest you invoke that right.  Remember, a fish only gets caught when he opens his mouth!

3.  You have the right to remain silent.  You cannot be punished for refusing to answer questions.  If you wish to remain silent, tell the officer out loud that “you will not answer any questions with an attorney present.”

4.         You don’t have to consent to a search of yourself or your belongings, but police may “pat you down” over your clothing if they suspect a weapon.  You should not physically resist, but you have the right to refuse consent for any further search.  If you do consent it could affect you later in court. 

What If You Are Stopped In Your Car?

1.         Stop the car in a safe place as quickly as possible.  Turn off the car, turn off the inside lights, open the window half way and place your hands on the steering wheel.  Upon request, show police your driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance.

2.         Remember! Be polite!  Asking the officer “why the ***** are you stopping me” can guarantee you more hassle than necessary.  Come court time, the officer will remember your attitude and be less willing to work with you.  They also may be more suspicious of you and attempt to search your car.

3.         If you have a gun in your car, keep your hands on the steering wheel.  As long as it is in the glove box, consol, trunk or locked in a lockable container then you should be fine.  Simply notify the officer that you have a firearm in the car while your hands are on the steering wheel.  The police officer will tell you what to do from that point on.  Giving them a heads up on the firearm makes them feel at ease and keeps you in their good graces.   

4.         If you are questioned about your immigration status- you have the right to remain silent and do not have to discuss your immigration or citizenship status with police, immigration agents or any other officials.  You do not have to answer questions about where you were born, whether you are a U.S. citizen, or how you entered the country.  These rules do not apply to international boarders, airports, and are for individuals on certain nonimmigrant visas, including tourists and business travelers.  If you are not a U.S. Citizen and an immigration agent requests your papers, you must show them if you have them with you.  If you are over eighteen years old, carry your papers with you at all times.  If you do not have immigration papers, remain silent!

If the Police or Immigration Come to Your Home

1.         You do not have to let them in unless they have certain types of warrants.  Ask the police officer to slip the warrant under the door or to hold it up to a window so that you can inspect it.  A search warrant allows police to enter the address listed on the warrant, but they can only search the areas and for the items specifically listed on the warrant.   An arrest warrant allows police to enter the home of the person listed on the warrant if they believe the person to be inside.  A warrant of removal or deportation (ICE WARRANT) does not allow officers to enter a home without consent. 

2.         Even if officers have a warrant, remember, you have the right to remain silent.  If you choose to speak to the officers, step outside and close the door. 

What If I Have A Roommate And He Consents to A Search?

According to well- established Supreme Court rulings, the police may enter and search a home if one of its occupants consents.  The Court has ruled that a person with “common authority over the premises” justifies police entry if other occupants aren’t present to consent or object to the search.  However, the outcome is different if another occupant is home and objects to the search.  If two roommates are present and one gives consent and the other does not, then the police usually cannot search the residence.  Physically being present is key, simply telling the police over the phone is not enough.  You must be present at the residence to object. 

Here are some examples:

1.         Bill and Ryan share a house and are roommates.  The police, responding to a neighbor’s noise complaint, knock on the door.  Only Bill is home.  When he answers the door, the officers ask to come and “check out the place.”  Bill says “yes.”  Because Ryan was not home to object, the officers have consent to search the house. 

2.         The police knock at the door and Bill answers.  This time, however, Ryan is home.  He hears Bill agree to let the officers in.  Ryan runs to the door and tells the officers they are “not allowed in the house.”  The officers are not allowed to come into the house.

3.         After speaking with Bill and Ryan and learning that they cannot search their home, the officers leave.  Three hours later, they come back and knock again.  Ryan has left the house to go to work, so only Bill is home.  Bill consents to the officers coming in and taking a look.  Even though Ryan was present recently and objected to the police search, the officers now have consent to look around.