Ten Rules for Dealing with the Police — Know Your Rights!
The 4th amendment of the Bill of Rights provides for people and their property to have the right to be protected from unreasonable searches and seizures. Law enforcement must have probable cause to obtain a search warrant. Probable Cause is defined as clear facts and evidence to know that you are involved in criminal activity. Never let the police search your vehicle or home without a warrant — even if you feel as if you have nothing to hide.
1. Always be calm and polite. Don’t talk back or raise your voice.
2. You always have the right to remain silent. During police encounters, the best thing to do is not speak.
3. You have the right to refuse searches. You should make it very clear, “Officer, I do not consent to searches.” The officer is not required to tell you that you have the right to refuse a search. Never consent to a search. You may refuse a search of your car, house and personal items. Also you are not required to empty your pockets. Do not consent to a search even if you know that you are not in possession of something illegal.
4. Don’t get tricked. The police may lie to you. Don’t let threats or promises trick you into waiving your rights.
5. If you ever feel as if the officer is detaining you, ask if you are free to go. Calmly state, “Officer, are you detaining me or am I free to go?” This will establish that the encounter is not voluntary, which can help you later in court. If the officer does not answer the question, then you are free to go. If the officer interrogates you, say, “I am going to remain silent. I would like to see a lawyer.”
6. Don’t expose yourself to criminal activity in public.
7. Don’t run from the police! This is enough evidence to support “probable cause.”
8. Never touch a cop!
9. Pay close attention to detail and the order of events during a police encounter. Record the event either visually or audibly if you can. Immediately after, write down as much detail as possible – what were the officers statements, appearance, badge numbers, names… Look around for possible witnesses. You will need this information later to report and possible police misconduct.
10. Do not let police into your home without a signed search warrant from a judge. The only times warrants are not necessary are in cases of “hot-pursuit” and emergencies. If an officer comes to your door clearly say, “I cannot let you in without a warrant.”
Ms. Carpenter is a defense attorney in New Orleans who defends people accused of Drug Crimes throughout the state of Louisiana.