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Top 5 Tips for Interacting with the Police

April 1, 2020

1) Stay Calm

One of the most important things when you interact or encounter a police officer is to stay calm. It doesn't matter if you're being pulled over for a traffic citation or you're being contacted for a serious felony charge. It is important to stay calm and be respectful of the police officer. When you're calm and respectful, you have the ability to better assess the situation and are less likely to startle the officer. Remember, police officers are worried about their safety too and the calmer you are the less likely things will escalate and you can reduce the chances that something bad will happen. Be smart and don’t say or do anything that would escalate the situation.

2) Remain Silent

You have a constitutional right to remain silent. The 5th Amendment is there to protect you from having to say anything that could harm you in the future. It is rarely a good idea to talk to a police officer and if you do, it is important that you know your rights. You do have to provide your name, residence address, and date of birth, but beyond that you should not really give any more details. Police Officers are allowed to lie to you so don’t be fooled. Remember, what you don't say can't come back and hurt you, but what you do say could be used against you later in any criminal case. You won’t be able to talk your way out of being arrested so it’s a better idea to remain silent.

3) Refuse Search Requests

It's important to remember that if a police officer asks to search your vehicle, your home, or anything else, you have the right to refuse. Just because the police officer asks you to search something (even if they ask in a nice way), it doesn't mean he or she has the right to conduct the search under the law. It is almost always better to make the police officer get a warrant for the arrest than it is to simply consent to the search.

4) Ask If You're Free to Leave

A police officer has to have a reason to detain you (note: there are a few exceptions). If there is no reason to detain you or no evidence to detain you, then you should be released. Make sure that if you do ask if you're free to go, you do so in a calm and respectful manner (see #1 above).

5) Don't Run

It is never a good idea to run away from the police under any circumstance. Never. They will catch you and you will likely be facing another criminal charge that could be more serious than the initial reason you were being stopped or approached in the first place. I can't say it enough, DO NOT RUN FROM THE POLICE! It's not a good idea. Be smart.

*Note that nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. For legal advice on any specific case you should contact an attorney directly.