Dealing with the Police

If you are arrested by the police: You have the right to remain silent; you do not have to talk to the police. You may ask for a lawyer at any time. If you are a minor, you should ask for your parents. If you ask for a lawyer, the police must stop talking to you until the lawyer is present. It is a smart idea to answer simple questions regarding your name and address to show the police that you are not dangerous.  Also you should:

  • Ask to lock your car or home;
  • Obey the police officer. Do not resist or touch the officer;
  • Stay calm, still and be patient. This helps keeps the law enforcement officer calm as well;
  • You have the right to talk to a lawyer after you are arrested. Ask to telephone a lawyer before you talk to anyone else. If you do not know a lawyer, you can call the Public Defender’s Office and speak to one of their lawyers. If you speak on the phone to your lawyer, you have the right to talk without anyone listening. If the police will not allow you to talk in privacy, simply tell your lawyer where you are and speak about nothing else; and
  • Do not give a false name as you could be charged with a crime.
If you are stopped by the police: Innocent people are stopped by the police and sometimes get embarrassed or angry. Although the stop may seem wrong or unfair, the police should believe they have a valid reason to stop you. Sometimes they just want to know if you may be a witness to a crime or know about something suspicious. Sometimes they stop you because some other person reported something suspicious about you or someone who looks like you.  If you are stopped by the police:

  • Stay Calm. Even if you feel that it’s unfair to be stopped by the police, stay calm, quiet and polite. Do not say or do anything threatening. A bad attitude will make police believe that you are dangerous.
  • Stay Still. Walking, moving around or running away will make police think that you are dangerous.
  • Stay Patient. Even a traffic ticket can take 20 minutes or more before you are free to leave. During this time, the police usually are not talking to you. It is easy to get embarrassed and angry but anger will only lead the police to believe that you are dangerous.
  • Show Your Hands. Hidden or moving hands will lead the police to believe that you have something dangerous in your hands or are concealing something.

If the police come to your home:

  • Make sure the person at your door is really an officer by looking for their badge or asking for identification. Be polite, but serious.
  • Find out politely why the officers have come to your house by asking, “How can I help you?”
  • If you are a minor, get a grown-up right away, if possible.
  • If the police want to enter your home, you have the right to tell them that they cannot enter without a warrant or are chasing a person who has entered your home. (A warrant is a piece of paper signed by a judge stating that it is okay for the police to enter your house. Make sure the address is correct on the warrant.)
  • The police may want to ask questions of you or someone who lives in your house as part of their investigation. If you want to help them, you can speak to them outside or you can invite them into your home.