Police Contact: Do's and Don'ts
This guide covers what you should do if you come into contact with police.
DON'T Consent to SearchesPolice must have probable cause to perform a search unless you consent to the search. Giving police consent to search you or your property allows them to get around this probable cause requirement. You are essentially making their job easier by not requiring them to have probable cause or obtain a warrant based on probable cause. Police may ask to search your car after they stop you for an alleged traffic violation. Due to fear of being uncooperative or lack of knowledge about the law, you may agree to the search. If police find evidence of criminal activity (e.g., drugs and weapons) during the search, you will end up facing criminal charges which could have been avoided had you not consented to the search. Remember if police ask to search you or your belongings, they likely do not have probable cause and it is always better to respectfully decline.
DO Exercise Your Right to Remain SilentIf you have been arrested and police are questioning you, any statements that you make can and will be used against you. You do not know how far along police are in their investigation -- they may not even have enough evidence to charge you. Remaining silent will avoid the risk of making self-incriminating statements that could lead to criminal charges. In order to exercise your right to remain silent, you must clearly state that you are invoking your right to remain silent, otherwise your silence can be used against you.
DO Exercise Your Right to an AttorneyIf police are interrogating you after you have been arrested, you should immediately exercise your right to be represented by an attorney. At that point, police must stop any and all interrogation until your attorney is present.
DON'T Confess Unless Advised by Your AttorneyMay people fall victim to police interrogation tactics and end up confessing to crimes. As I indicated earlier, just because you are being questioned by police does not mean that charges will be brought against you. There has to be enough evidence connecting you to the crime. Even if you have been charged with a crime, there may not be enough evidence for a conviction. It is common for criminal charges to be dismissed or reduced later on in a case.