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What are your rights when stopped by law enforcement?

Do you know what you should do if you get stopped by the police? Regardless of why you were stopped, it's important to remember that you have certain constitutional rights whether you are a United States citizen or an undocumented immigrant. As such, they are detailed below.

You have the right:

  • To remain silent. To make it clear that you are exercising your right, state this politely out loud.
  • To deny consent to have your car, home or person searched without a valid warrant.
  • To leave peacefully unless you are under arrest.
  • To speak with an attorney once you get arrested, whether or not you are able to afford their services. However, you must ask for a lawyer.

As is usually the case, the rights are accompanied by responsibilities. During an encounter with law enforcement, keep the following in mind.

You have the responsibility:

  • To be prepared for an arrest, and to prepare your family.
  • To be polite and remain calm.
  • Not to obstruct or interfere with law enforcement.
  • Not to present false documents or lie.
  • To remember details of the incident.
  • To file a complaint with the law enforcement agency and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) if a police officer violates your constitutional rights.

Surviving the encounter is the No. 1 priority

If the police stop you for questioning, never run or resist. Make sure that the officer can clearly see your hands and that you are not reaching for anything they could interpret as a weapon.

Ask the policeman if you are free to go. This is important, because the officer has to release you or arrest you. If you are arrested, he or she must tell you what the charges are.

You and your attorney should begin immediately to plan a strategy for your defense to any criminal charges.

Source: American Civil Liberties Union, "Stopped by Police, Immigration Agents, or FBI," accessed Sep. 01, 2017

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