Being stopped and frisked by the police is a highly fraught situation. Both parties are usually suspicious of the other, and the potential for conflict is often high. The police shoulder the responsibility for de-escalation. They are the ones that are supposed to put you at ease and protect your safety. However, they do not always behave with your interests in mind.
That is why it is essential to know your rights during a stop and search situation. Knowing exactly what you can expect from your officer will help you keep a clear mind and a cool head. Here we explain exactly what the officer can and cannot do during a stop and search situation.
For more information on your legal rights, lawmanaging is a useful resource for all things legal.
In the event you are stopped by the police, you have the right to the following:
- Remain Silent: You are under no obligation to answer any questions the police officer asks you. These questions include where you are going, where you have been, or where you live. You may be required to provide your name; however, this is the only information you need to answer.
- Refuse Consent: You do not have to give the officers consent to search you or your belongings. If you withhold consent, the police officer will likely still pat you down to ensure you are not carrying a weapon. They may go ahead and search you anyway, but your refusal to give consent may come up in court at a later date.
- Withhold Immigration Information: The police do not have the authority to ask immigration-related questions unless they are border police working at an international airport or border crossing.
The unfortunate reality is that many citizens are injured during a police stop and search situations. Even if they treat the officers with respect and act in a non-threatening way, officers can still react aggressively and violently.
To keep yourself and those around you safe, it is best to remain calm and do not try to resist. Do not lie. If you do not want to provide an answer to the question asked, simply invoke your right to remain silent.
Above all, keep your hands in the officer’s line of sight. If you attempt to pull something from your pocket or put your hands behind your back as though you are reaching into your waistband, the officer may misinterpret this as you reaching for a weapon and use force to eliminate the threat.
If You Think Your Rights Were Violated…
If you believe an officer violated your rights, you should make a note of the officer’s name and badge number, as well as their patrol car number and the name of the agency the officer was working for. This information will be necessary to make a complaint.
Additionally, if you believe anyone witnessed the officer’s behavior, take down their contact information. If you sustained an injury in the encounter, seek medical attention immediately and keep all medical records associated with your injuries and take photographs for evidence.
Finally, file a complaint at the officer’s agency. This usually has to be done in writing. However, there are ways to make your complaint anonymous if you desire.