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In the event that a government agent questions you, it is vital that you fully understand your rights as a civilian. Always be careful about what you say, and keep in mind that anything you say can be used against you in a court of law.

 

Below, we have outlined some excerpts from the ACLU's Know Your Rights booklet that will provide effective and useful guidance in the event that you are approached by Law Enforcement. For a downloadable copy of this booklet, please click here.

Frequently asked questions: Know Your Rights!

What if law enforcement officers stop me on the street?

You do not have to answer any questions. You can say "I do not want to talk to you," and walk away calmly. If you are not comfortable with this, you can ask if you are free to go. If the answer is yes, you can consider just walking away. If the officer says that you are not under arrest but you are not free to go, then you are being detained. Do not run from the officer.

What if law enforcement officers stop me in my car?

Keep your hands where the police can see them. You must show your drivers license, registration and proof of insurance if you are asked for these documents. Officers can also ask for you to step outside the car, and they may separate passengers and drivers from each other. However, no one has to answer any questions. The police cannot search your car unless you give them your consent, or unless they have "probably cause" to believe that criminal activity is taking place, that you have been involved in a crime, or that you have evidence of a crime in your car.

What should I do if law enforcement officers arrest me?

The officer must advise you of your constitutional rights to remain silent, to an attorney, and to have an attorney appointed if you cannot afford one. Do not tell the police anything except your name, and ask to see a lawyer immediately.

Do I have to answer questions if I have been arrested?

No. If you are arrested, you do not have to answer any questions or volunteer any information. Ask for a lawyer right away. You should always talk to a lawyer before you answer any questions.

What if I am treated badly by law enforcement officers?

Write down the officer's badge number, name or other identifying information. You have a right to ask the officer for this information. Try to find witnesses and their names and phone numbers. If you are injured, seek medical attention and take pictures of the injuries. Call a lawyer or contact your local ACLU office. You should also make a complaint to the law enforcement office responsible.

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