What are Your Rights, If and When You are Stopped by a Police Officer? What Can They Do to Me?

Updated on September 24, 2016

What Are My Rights?

We depend on the Police to keep us and our property safe. We expect the Police to treat us all fairly. It does not matter what race you are, your ethnic background is irrelevant as is your Nation of Origin or your Religion.

There are many reasons that you may be stopped by a police officer, not all situations will be detrimental to your person. Having knowledge of your rights will aid you vastly in such encounters.

This article will give you some tips for times when you are asked to cooperate with police, and exactly what your rights are in this situation.

Although Laws will vary depending on the State you are in or if you entering the country through a checkpoint. This would include arrivals and departures at airports.

You have a right to remain silent!

Knowledge of your Rights will make any encounter with Police Officers easier for both of you!
Knowledge of your Rights will make any encounter with Police Officers easier for both of you! | Source

What Are Your Rights?

  • You have the right to remain silent. You have to give your name to a Police Officer, but you are under no obligation to utter another word. If you wish to exercise this right make sure you proclaim loudly that you wish to remain silent.
  • You have the right to reject to give your consent to any search of your body, your vehicle, or your home. A Police Officer can only search your body or property with either Probable Cause, or a Search Warrant.
  • If the police officer has not placed you under arrest, you are free to leave the scene whenever you want to leave. Do so in a calm manner as to not incur charges against you leading to your arrest.
  • If the police officer does place you under arrest, you have the right to speak to a lawyer. You must verbally ask that this right be invoked. Ask instantly upon notice of your arrest.

Even if your immigration status does not fall under the status of a citizen, you still retain the same Rights under the Constitution.

Always treat Law Enforcement officers with respect.   They do not make the Law, they only enforce it!
Always treat Law Enforcement officers with respect. They do not make the Law, they only enforce it!

What Responsibilities Do You Have When Stopped By A Police Officer?

You should always be polite when dealing with any law enforcement officer. You should also remain calm and not allow yourself to get overexcited, even if you are right.

  • You should never interfere with a Police Officer or obstruct him in any way from fulfilling his duty.
  • Do not lie to a police officer. Do not present documents to an Officer that you know are fakes.
  • Make sure you are prepared in the event you are arrested. Prepare yourself and your family to the fact that this could occur.
  • Try to remember as much details about the encounter that you can.
  • If you feel that your Rights have been violated by a police officer, you can either file a written complaint or you can call your local ACLU.

Miranda Rights and Miranda Warnings

What If The Police Stop Me For Questioning?

  • The first thing to remember if the Police question you is to remain calm. It will not help the situation if you try to run, nor will it aid you in any way to resist or try and obstruct the officer. Do not argue with the officer, even if you have done nothing wrong. Always keep your hands where The Police Officer can see them.
  • The main question to ask of the officer is if you are free to leave, if the officer tells you it is alright then quietly and calmly just walk away from the scene. If the officer has placed you under arrest then you retain the Right to know under what charges you are being arrested.
  • When a police officer questions you it is within your rights to remain silent, You cannot be punished for this in any way. If it is your desire to remain silent then make sure you tell the officer, loud enough that he is sure to hear you. In most states you are required to provide your name if the officer asks you to identify yourself.
  • At no time must you consent to a search of your body, or your belongings. You might have to submit to a pat down so the Officer can determine if you are concealing any weapons.This is for the officer's safety and you should not resist in a physical manner, but make sure the officer understands that you do not give your consent to any further searches. This will be very important if the situation turns into a charge to be heard in court.

The Citizen's Guide to Surviving Police Encounters

What Are My Rights If A Police Officer Stops Me In A Vehicle?

  • If you are pulled over by a police officer while you are driving a car, you should stop the car in a safe place as soon as possible. Shut off your car, turn on the lights in the car, open the window a slight bit and place your hands upon the steering wheel.
  • If the officer requests your Driver's License, Registration, or Proof of Insurance provide these documents to the officer. If the law enforcement agent requests to search your car, you can refuse. If the officer plainly can see that your car contains evidence of a crime having been committed, your car can and will be searched with or without your consent.
  • Everyone in the vehicle maintains the Right to Remain Silent. It does not matter if you were the driver or merely a passenger. If you are a passenger you may ask the officer if you are free to leave, If the officer responds Yes, then you can stay at the scene and remain quiet or simply leave altogether. No matter what the officer says, you have the right to remain silent.

Even illegal immigrants possess Rights!

What Are My Rights If I Am Questioned About My Immigration Status?

  • It does not matter what your status is when it comes to immigration or citizenship, You still have the right to remain silent. You have no obligation to converse with any Police, Immigration Agents of any other United States official concerning your citizenship status.
  • If asked where you were born, or if you are a U.S. citizen, or how you entered the Country, there is no reason that you are required to answer any of these questions. If you are at an international border or an airport there are separate rules regarding non immigrant visas, this includes people travelling for business or leisure.
  • If the situation is that you are not a United States citizen and an immigration agent asks to see your Immigration papers, then you must show them to the Agent if you have them on your person. Any person over the age of 18 should carry their Immigration Documents with them at all times. If you do not possess immigration papers then you should invoke your right to remain silent.
  • Never lie about being a U.S.Citizen, and never provide falsified documents.

You have the Right to remain silent!
You have the Right to remain silent!

What Should I do If An Immigration Agent Comes To My Home?

  • If any kind of law enforcement officer or immigration agent comes to your place of residence, you are not required to allow them entry unless they have the correct Warrant to enter.
  • You can ask the agent or officer to slide the warrant under the door or hold it up so that you may read it through a window.
  • If the police have a search warrant this will give the police the right to enter the address listed on the warrant. The Officers can only search areas and look for items that are listed on the warrant.
  • If the officer has an arrest warrant they can enter the home of the person that is listed upon the warrant, only if they have information that the person they are pursuing is inside of the home.
  • A warrant issued for the removal or deportation of a person does not give authority to the officers to enter the home without the residents consent.
  • Although the officers have a warrant in their possession it does not take away your right to remain silent. If you make the choice to speak to the officers, go outside of the home with the officers and shut the door behind you.

What Are My Rights If I Am Questioned By The FBI?

  • If an FBI agent shows up at your home or your place of work, you are not obligated to answer any questions. Simply inform the agent that you would prefer to speak with your lawyer before speaking to the agents.
  • If the FBI requests you to meet with their agents to be interviewed, it is within your rights to proclaim that you have no desire to be interviewed.
  • If you do agree to be interviewed, make sure you have a lawyer present during the interview.
  • You are under no obligation to respond to any questions. If you are not comfortable answering a question, you can tell the agents that you will only respond to questions concerning a certain topic.

Dr. Lorandos explains what to do if you are arrested

What Are My Rights If I Am Arrested?

  • First thing to remember if you are being arrested is Do Not Resist, even if you feel that you are being arrested unjustly.
  • Proclaim immediately that you wish to invoke your right to remain silent and you wish to speak to an attorney. There is no reason to give the Police any explanations or excuses. These are rights not privileges.
  • If you are unable to afford a lawyer then the government must provide a lawyer to you for free.
  • Do not speak at all, do not sign anything or make any decisions without the advice of a Lawyer.
  • You do have the right to place a local phone call, the Police are not allowed to listen to any conversations that you have with your Attorney.
  • Be prepared in the case you get arrested. Also have your family prepared as to what to do under these circumstances. Have your family and lawyers phone number memorized. Have plans available if you have children or you need to take certain medications.

If you are not a citizen and you get arrested:

  • Speak to your attorney about what a criminal conviction or a plea of guilt will do to your immigration status.
  • The only person you should discuss your immigration status with is your lawyer.
  • When you are incarcerated you may be visited by Immigration agents. Do not answer their questions and do not sign any documents prior to speaking to your attorney concerning the matter.
  • Read through all documentation presented to you. If you do not fully understand the documents, tell the agents that you are going to require an interpreter.

You have the Right to speak to your lawyer!
You have the Right to speak to your lawyer!

What if I Am Taken into Custody by Immigration (ICE) Agents?

  • You still retain the right to have an attorney, but the government is under no obligation to provide one for you. If you don't have a lawyer, you can request a list of low cost or pro-bono legal services.
  • You will have the right to contact your Consulate or you can have an officer notify your Consulate of your detention.
  • Make it clear to the ICE agent that you would like to stay silent. Never discuss your immigration status with another person except your lawyer.
  • Never sign anything, especially anything like a voluntary departure or stipulated removal, without discussing it with your lawyer first. Simply by signing a document you may give up any chance you might have had to remain in the country.
  • Always remember your Immigration Number, make sure your family also has this number. It will make it much easier for your family to locate you should you be detained.
  • Have a copy of all your immigration documentation kept with someone you can trust.

What Do I Do If I Feel My Rights Have Been Violated?

  • If you feel that the police are acting inappropriately, do not challenge them at the scene. Do not physically resist the officers. Do not threaten the police, even if you are only threatening to file a complaint.
  • When you have a chance write down all the details of the encounter that you can remember. This would include any of the officers badge numbers or the numbers on the patrol car.
  • Remember exactly what agency the officers represent, and any other details you can remember no matter how insignificant they may seem at the time.
  • Try and acquire the contact information from anyone who may have witnessed the event. If the altercation results in you being injured, take pictures of the injury after seeking medical attention.
  • You have every Right to file a written complaint to the Internal Affairs Division of the agency that you feel has violated your rights.
  • There are also Civilian Complaint Boards that you may contact, you can even file the complaint anonymously if you fear repercussions.


The materials available on this hub are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. All materiel are copyrighted properties of the author and may not be used without permission of the author.

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Questions & Answers


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      • profile image


        16 months ago

        Yup! Pol-ice do what they want, and when they want. You have no rights in practice. Only in theory. Live free or die.

      • profile image


        5 years ago

        This may be good advice for someone who is guilty to begin with. This advise is bad for people to actually practice routinely. Law enforcement officers are not looking for pointless reasons to arrest innocent individuals. Not speaking can lead to someone getting arrested, because they decided to not talk about evidence, while they were innocent the entire time, which can lead to many legal issues and large amounts of cost for the local, state or federal govt that could have been easily avoided.

      • Freedoms Daughter profile image

        Freedoms Daughter 

        7 years ago from Washington State

        Just a heads up. You may contact the ACLU, but they can be blocked if your attorney does not give them authorization to speak with you. This has been going on for years in the county I live in to anyone assigned a public defender.


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