Police Encounters: Be Polite, Know Your Rights

If you find yourself in a police encounter – that is, being questioned by a police officer for any reason – remember to never give police the ammunition to shoot you with. Do not be rude, be polite, but I advise that you not volunteer information if you do not have to. Whether you are getting arrested or not, you have the right to remain silent because anything you say can and will be used against you in court. 

The righteous way to remember your first and most important right is: loose lips sink ships. Be mindful of your movements. Control your emotions and avoid any furtive, sudden or threatening body gestures. Avoid displaying a negative attitude or belligerent demeanor. Be professional! I recommend that you avoid talking to the police if at all possible. I further advise that you should not allow an officer to trick you into volunteering information.

Never invite the police into your home, condominium unit or hotel room. You have Fourth Amendment protections! If you must speak to the police, then I recommend that you step outside into the hallway with the door closed behind you to talk to them. Never allow the police to follow you in, ask them to wait outside! 

If the police do not have a search warrant or you do not give them permission to enter, and they have no probable cause to believe you committed a crime, or there are no exigent circumstances then they do not have a right to enter your dwelling or search your vehicle without your permission in the event of a traffic stop. Avoid arguing these points with the police.

Sometimes, the police can delay letting you know if you are under arrest. Simply ask if you are free to leave. If so, leave. If not, remain silent and/or ask for an attorney. Remember, in a police encounter, what they do not see, will not hurt you! But if you voluntarily allow the police to enter your dwelling, or search your vehicle, and they see marijuana or any controlled dangerous substance or anything that can be viewed as a weapon – in plain view – then you can be arrested for it. 

Many people who I know who have been arrested say they believe their arrest should be thrown out because the police officer failed to read them their Miranda warnings. This is not the case! Miranda warnings are only triggered when two things occur in a police encounter. There must be custody and interrogation (questioning) before police are required to read you your Miranda warnings. 

Miranda warnings only go to the statements that you make to the police. Remember you have a Fifth Amendment right to remain silent. You should use that right! Tell the police officer with all due respect officer, I wish to exercise my Fifth Amendment right and remain silent. Check out this video for a more detailed explanation.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

If you are being placed under arrest, let the officer arrest you and sort out the facts in court. The job of an officer, in general, can be very stressful and challenging as Ron B. Allah explains. You want to mindful of this and avoid doing anything that might escalate the encounter. When you get to the police station, ask to make a phone call and/or an attorney. This advice is intended to save lives, increase public safety and improve police-community relations.

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