It seems that every day the news features stories about encounters with the police that go terribly wrong. So, how can you avoid getting into a similar situation?
If the police stop you, you can take these four steps to prevent things from escalating.
1. Remain calm and polite
Even if the police have no legal reason to stop you, you want to respect their authority. You should remain calm and polite. When you speak, provide the officer with truthful information. You should also avoid sudden movements and keep your hands where the officer can see them. This approach can go a long way toward defusing a tense situation.
2. You have the right to remain silent
We all have constitutional rights designed to protect us from police harassment. Thanks to films and television shows, you probably know that these include your right to remain silent. You do not have to answer any questions that others might use against you. However, you may need to give some basic information, such as your name. In Missouri, officers can demand your identity if they suspect you have committed a crime. An officer may place you under arrest for failing to state your name.
3. You do not have to consent to a voluntary search
The police may ask if they can search you or your things. You don’t have to allow such a voluntary search. Even so, the police may perform a pat-down if they suspect you are carrying a weapon, and it is possible that an officer might search you or your possessions against your will. You don’t want to escalate the situation by moving to interfere. However, you can say clearly that you object to the search. This may help you challenge the legality of the search in the future.
4. If you are arrested, you have the right to an attorney
You have the right to an attorney. If your encounter with the police leads to an arrest, you should assert this right as soon as possible. Requesting an attorney early gives you the best chance of protecting your rights and establishing a strong defense against any charges you might face.
You can help protect yourself in police encounters
A police stop can be a stressful experience, even if you haven’t done anything wrong. When you know your rights and keep your cool, you can help prevent the tense situation from getting worse.