KNOW YOUR RIGHTS… IT’S HALF THE BATTLE

Law enforcement plays a critical role in the safety of our communities.  As such, they are granted certain powers to help maintain law and order.  But these powers do not trump our civil rights.  It is the duty of every individual to know their rights not only to protect themselves but to make sure that police powers are kept in check.

It is no secret that tensions between the police and communities are at an all-time high.  The following is a list of suggestions on how to interact with the police to make sure your civil rights are protected:

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  • Remain calm and polite.
    1. If you are stopped be courteous and non-confrontational. Using words such as sir or ma’am goes a long way.
    2. Do not fidget or keep reaching your hands in and out of pockets. Do not give the police officer any excuse to search you.
    3. If you are in a car, make sure your hands are visible to the police.  It is generally a good idea to turn on the interior light of the car and keep your hands on the steering wheel.
  • Do not run.
    1. This is one of the worst things you can do. Running may make the police officer fear for his safety but more importantly, can also put your safety at risk.
    2. Another bad thing about running is that it can be used against you in court as something called “consciousness of guilt”, meaning you ran away because you were guilty.
  • Find out if you are free to leave.
    1. A simple and direct way to find out is by asking “Am I free to leave?” or “Am I being detained?”  (Make sure you are staying calm and polite.)  If you ask “Am I being detained?” and the answer is NO, then calmly walk away.  If the answer is YES, you are either being detained or arrested.  The reason why is not important, but how you conduct yourself is.
  • You have the right to remain silent. – USE IT.
    1. Whether on TV, a movie, or in real life, we have all heard at least once “You have the right to remain silent”. While this is true, it is no longer enough to just remain silent.  You must affirmatively assert this right, meaning you must inform the police officer that you want to remain silent.  This does not have to be complicated.  You may say “I exercise my right to remain silent” or as simple as “I do not want to talk with you.”
    2. You gain nothing by speaking with police. You can only hurt yourself.  Even if you start talking with the police and then change your mind, you can stop talking immediately and assert your right to silence.
    3. The most important thing to remember is: After you have told the police that you do not want to speak with them, stand by those words.  Do not speak to them.  There are many ways you can harm yourself.  Remember, nothing is off the record and anything you say can and will be used against you.
  • Do not consent to a search.
    1. NEVER consent to a search. You don’t have to so why would you?  There is nothing to gain from doing so.  The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution grants you the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizure.  What is unreasonable is not up to you or the police, but is determined in a court of law.
    2. If an officer asks to search you or your belongings calmly and politely say “I do not consent to a search”. That’s it.  Simple and straightforward.
    3. Refusing to consent to a search does not mean the officer will listen to you. If an officer insists on searching you, do not physically resist.  Remain calm and polite and continue to verbally assert your lack of consent by repeating “I do not consent to a search.”
  • Never touch a police officer.
    1. Although this goes without saying, you should never turn the encounter physical. Police officers are afforded a great deal of protections under the law and any type of physical contact may lead to the filing of avoidable, serious charges.
    2. Don’t even touch the officer in a casual manner. If a police officer has stopped you, they are on alert.  They are now not only focused on the reason why they stopped you, but also their safety and welfare.  When a police officer feels physically threatened they tend to care more about their safety, then their rights.

The preceding list is not by any means a comprehensive one, nor is it a list of defenses that could be used in a court of law.  If you found this blog useful and want to learn more about other rights you have or how other laws may affect you, check out our other blogs at http://www.dzlawphilly.com/blog/.

If you would like to learn more about your rights whilst interacting with law enforcement there are a great many resources available to you.  Feel free to check out the following websites: http://upagainstthelaw.org/interactions-with-law-enforcement/ ; https://www.aclupa.org/issues/freespeech/right-protest/know-your-rights-protest/.

If you or someone you know has been arrested, you need to hire an experienced attorney NOW.  At DiMuzio Zerounian, LLC we have the experience and the knowledge to guide you through all aspects of this serious and very trying process.  Call our offices 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for a free consultation 267.479.4044.

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