How should I handle an encounter with the police?
The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and its analogue, Article I, paragraph 7 of the New Jersey Constitution protect the public from unreasonable searches and seizures. Below are some general tips for handling yourself during an encounter with the police.
What should I do if I am stopped by the police?Remain calm. Be respectful. Avoid any conduct that the police may perceive as threatening even if you believe that the police actions are not justified (you can always challenge improper actions by the police in court after the fact which prevents potential injury to all involved and can save you an unnecessary arrest). Your goal should be to conduct yourself in a way that prevents the police from escalating the encounter from a minor field inquiry to a more serious investigative detention to an outright arrest.
What should I do if the police present me with an arrest warrant or search warrant?Cooperate. If the police present you with a search warrant or arrest warrant it means they have presented their case to a Judge who has made a finding that there is probable cause to search or arrest. Whether the warrant is ultimately shown to be valid, there is a legal presumption of validity upon issuance until a court of proper juridiction orders otherwise. Probable cause is established by articulating specific facts that show, in the case of an arrest, an individual has committed an offense. In the case of a search warrant, the Judge must have been presented with facts that the evidence sought may aid in an apprehension or conviction for a particular offense. If you are arrested pursuant to a warrant you are entitled to a copy of the warrant which will contain a short and plain statement of the allegation(s) and the facts the police believe support same. If your property is searched pursuant to a warrant you are entitled to a copy of the warrant itself, as well as, a written list of items seized known as the warrant "Return." It is critical that you obtain copies of the documents described above and present them to your lawyer as soon as possible for use in formulating your defense.
What if the police seek my consent to search?You may or may not give consent to a search. It is your choice. Consent must be voluntary. You may refuse to give consent. The police must advise you of your right to refuse. You are also entitled to withdraw consent and terminate the search at any time.