It is common to have a feeling of fear or tension when encountering a police officer – even when you are upholding the law.
Fortunately, as a civilian, there are a few things you can do and a few things you should not do, to appropriately handle an encounter with a police officer.
There are typically three encounters you may find yourself in:
• A police officer approach in a public place
• A police officer approach in a private place such as your home
• A police officer approach while in a car
So what should you do when you are approached by a police officer in such a situation?
Here are some tips to help protect your rights during the encounter:
Let’s start with the DO’S!!!
1. Critically think before you speak or move
Your words, emotions, body language and movement are being monitored closely by the officer. Stay calm and be polite and respectful to the officer. Keep your hands visible at all times.
2. Pull over immediately
Pull over as soon as you are signaled by a police officer to do so. Roll your car window down and sit still with your hands on the wheel waiting for the police officer to arrive.
3. Exercise your right to remain silent
Remember that anything you say, can and will be used against you in a court of law. Therefore, whenever an officer arrests or questions you regarding a crime, exercise your Fifth Amendment rights.
4. Get a copy of the warrant
When an officer presents a warrant to search your property, get a copy of it and present it to your attorney immediately. Also, write down all the information you remember concerning the encounter immediately thereafter. Record the time, location, name of the officer, badge number if possible and any other information that would be relevant to your attorney.
5. Sign the ticket
To avoid arrest, you should sign the ticket presented to you by the police officer. Keep in mind that accepting a ticket is not admitting guilt. Do not sign anything else in the absence of your attorney.
Now let’s talk about the DON’Ts
1. Don’t consent to a search
You are not obligated to let an officer conduct a search. Unless they have a warrant, you can refuse to give consent for a search.
2. Don’t touch the police officer
If you touch an officer, you are putting yourself in the danger of arrest. In addition to this, the arrest would likely entail physical confrontation and increasing use of force.
3. Don’t resist physically
Although you have the right to verbally resist an officer’s questions or request to search your property without a warrant, you should never get physical or aggressive.
4. Don’t run or make any movements towards any objects without the officer’s consent
Don’t try to flee the scene or get out of the car. Do not reach for any objects or weapon as the officer is allowed to discharge their weapon if they feel endangered.
5. Don’t go back if arrested
If being arrested in your home, do not go back inside as the officer will surely look around.
Whenever in an encounter with an officer, use common sense to incorporate the most suitable actions that are in line with the law.