Police have the right to briefly stop you, but only if there is reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing. This caveat is important and could come up if a stop leads to criminal charges. If it is later found that an officer conducted a stop without reasonable suspicion, the charges could get thrown out.
If you are stopped, either in a car when the officer is checking for drunk driving or while walking down the sidewalk, take note of these three tips to help better ensure your legal rights are protected: speak carefully, take searches seriously and know how to deal with an arrest.
Tips to speak carefully during a stop by police officers
If you are stopped, it is important to be cooperative. You can help set the tone of the conversation by being civil. Do not argue with the police and keep your hands in clear view. If you disagree with the reasoning for the stop, be sure to say so in a nonconfrontational manner. If the discussion becomes an argument and escalates, the officer could arrest you.
Although you should cooperate, it is important to keep in mind that anything you say could be used against you. You can choose not to speak, but it is important to communicate that you are exercising this right. Do not simply stand there silently. If you choose to remain silent, the New York Civil Liberties Union recommends stating “I would like to remain silent.”
Take a search seriously
If an officer asks to search your vehicle or your person, it is important that you know you do not have to consent to a search. This may not stop the police from conducting a search, but stating calmly that you do not consent to the search can help you preserve some of your legal rights later if the case ends up going to court.
Tips to deal with an arrest
If the confrontation does result in an arrest, tell the officer your name and address. It is generally not wise to attempt to explain things, run away or otherwise resist the arrest.
Ask to speak with a lawyer before deciding how to handle the arrest. When you are given the opportunity to make a phone call, keep in mind that it can be recorded and anything said during that conversation could be used against you.