The average US citizen only has a simple understanding of their rights under the law. This ignorance only becomes a problem if you are confronted by the police and accused of a crime. A lack of information about the law could lead you to self-incrimination or an unnecessarily tense exchange with armed officers.
Protect yourself by learning these common ways that people misunderstand or simply don't know the ways their rights influence conversations with the police.
1. Consenting to Searches
In an ideal society, an officer would only make requests that you are legally required to submit to. Unfortunately, many officers know ways to get people to consent to waiving their rights.
For instance, if you are pulled over for a traffic violation, that infraction does not immediately give an officer the right to search your vehicle. The officer must have reasonable suspicion that you have something illegal in your car or are driving under the influence.
If the officer has no concrete reason to suspect you have committed further crimes, you can affirm your right by telling the officer that you do not consent to searches.
2. Forfeiting Your Fifth Amendment Rights
The Fifth Amendment protects people from self-incrimination, but some people hope they may be able to talk their way out of a ticket. Cops are good at detecting lies, and one of the chief ways they do this is by asking specific questions.
If you contradict yourself during your interaction, the police officer will likely document any inconsistencies, and you will appear untrustworthy if you must face a judge. You may also simply slip up and accidentally admit to charges.
Remember that for your Fifth Amendment rights to remain intact, you must invoke them while you are in police custody. Tell whoever is questioning you that you have the right to remain silent and you will only speak to your lawyer (even if you don't presently have one).
3. Not Knowing What Police Questions You Must Answer
The laws may vary by state, but in some states, you may be required to give your name, address, and date of birth if you are stopped in a public place. Aside from that, in many states you are not legally forced to answer any other questions at all. Clearly state that you refuse to answer any questions or that you are choosing to remain silent.
However, police officers are meant to protect society. If you have a chance to help them apprehend a criminal and you are clearly not their target, then feel free to give them information to help their investigation.
4. Losing Your Temper
Being stopped by the police can be scary and frustrating, but that doesn't mean raising your voice and arguing with a cop is the best tactic. Even if you are completely innocent, police officers are human and challenging them is a quick way to get on their bad side. The officer may decide to pressure you even harder than before or assume that you must have something to hide. The officer could even take it as a personal affront and decide to make your life more difficult.
The best approach is to stay calm and collected, and comply with any lawful requests while still affirming your rights if relevant issues arise. Even though it may hurt your pride to comply even though you are innocent, you have nothing to gain by acting belligerent.
Virtually everyone will have an encounter with the police at some point, but if you're armed with knowledge, you can affirm your legal rights the correct way and protect yourself from some common law enforcement tactics.
If you need a criminal defense attorney after an encounter with the police, call The Friedlander Law Firm.