First and foremost, it’s important to know your rights.
Note: Tom suggests that you print out this summary as well as the summary in the “How do I invoke by Constitutional Rights?” FAQ and carry them with you for reference if and when you are ever stopped by a police officer.
No one wants to be confronted by law enforcement, especially if one has something to hide. In our modern police state, however, it is inevitable that most of us will come into contact with law enforcement now and then. There are simply so many police officers that it is simple mathematics that it is only a matter of time before you are subject to governmental intrusion. This may come in the form of a traffic stop, a tax audit or as part of an investigation of someone you know. There are many possibilities. If you are not careful during that contact, you may suddenly find your person and property being searched and seized all because you unwittingly waived the very rights that would have protected you from such intrusion.
If you are confronted by a police officer, remain calm. Be courteous and provide your identification. If you have anything on you or in your house or vehicle that you would rather keep private from the police, politely decline to answer any further questions. The best way to do this is to ask to talk to an attorney before answering further questions. Say something like, “I would be glad to answer your questions, but I have been advised by my attorney to never agree to do so without him present.” The officer may try to talk you out of it briefly, but the law commands him to immediately cease any questions once you ask to speak to an attorney. That is the essence of your 6th Amendment right to an attorney and also involves your 5th Amendment right not to incriminate yourself.
Even though you have prevented the officer from questioning you, he may still ask for consent to search you and your property. Do not agree. You need to protect your 4th Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures. Do not consent to any search of your person, your property, your residence or your vehicle.
Remember, if the officer fails to honor your rights, remain calm and polite, ask for the officer’s identifying information and ask him or her to note your objection in the report. Never attempt to physically resist an unlawful arrest, search or seizure. If necessary, you may point out the violations to a judge at a later time. The judge will order that any evidence discovered must be suppressed from evidence at trial.
To summarize, when confronted by the police for any reason:
- Remain calm and be courteous;
- Be confident knowing that you have the following rights: a) the 4th Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures; b) the 5th Amendment right to not incriminate yourself; and c) the 6th Amendment right to an attorney;
- Feel free to invoke your right to only answer questions with an attorney present (6th Amendment) to avoid inadvertently incriminating yourself (5th Amendment);
- Do not consent to any search of your person, your property, your residence or your vehicle (4th Amendment).
- If the officer fails to honor your rights, still remain calm and polite, and ask him or her to note your objections in the report; and
- Never attempt to physically resist an unlawful arrest, search or seizure.