Being pulled over by the police is a distressing event that can quickly go south. We’d like to be very clear about this: The responsibility of de-escalation does not rest with the public – it belongs to police officers know your rights cops. Even after you have stated your rights, you cannot assume that cops will act in a way that ensures your safety or that they will respect them.

You might be able to reduce the danger to yourself by keeping your temper and not showing hatred toward the officers. There are times when people have done everything they could to put an officer at ease, only to be harmed or killed as a consequence.

The police officer’s duty, besides safeguarding and serving the general public, is to make arrests. Some cops are required to meet specific arrest targets or quotas every week. When a police officer stops you on the street, in your auto, or even at your home, he or she likely thinks you have knowledge that could be used to make an arrest.

Is it advisable for you to talk with the police officer about your case? Should you let the officer into your house or automobile? And what will happen if you don’t?

Cops are there to protect us. However, the police themselves might be a hazard to your rights – particularly if you haven’t done anything wrong. Whether you’re guilty of a crime or dealing with a federal agent on a power trip, you should understand your rights when interacting with cops.

Table of Contents (click to jump to a specific section)

Know Your Rights When Speaking to a Police Officer in General
What Are The “Miranda Rights”?
Know Your Rights When Being Pulled Over By The Police
Witnessing Police Brutality: What Are Your Rights?
Kirakosian Law And Your Rights

Know Your Rights When Speaking to a Police Officer in General

When speaking with a police officer, keep in mind to be polite and stay calm. The less eventful your encounter, the better. Let’s go over a few rules and principles that could help you.

Consent

If a police officer does not suspect you of a particular crime, you are generally under no obligation to answer questions or allow a search (we’ll discuss the exceptions below). However, if you consent—that is, you agree to talk to a police officer or allow yourself to be searched—the information supplied may be used against you or others. In other words, your permission allows the officer to do things that he or she could not do before.

If you agree to answer a police officer’s question or submit to a search, keep the following in mind: you always have the option to withdraw your consent if you don’t want to continue, and there is no such thing as “off the record” when it comes to giving information to officers. The police are not required to inform you that your consent is optional.

If you inform officers that you do not consent to a search or don’t wish to answer questions, they are not allowed to retaliate. However, officers might still instruct you to exit your vehicle, stay in place, or a wide range of commands. Once an officer makes an order, you cannot refuse or claim you do not consent. While the officer might be unlawfully detaining or searching you, that is up to the judicial system to determine, not you. Once an officer makes a command, your only right is to remain silent. If you refuse or fail to follow commands, you may face additional charges for resisting arrest or obstructing an officer in the performance of their duties.

Miranda Rights

If a police officer has not taken you into custody or prevented you from leaving, the officer may ask you questions without reading your Miranda rights. The data you provide might be used against you in court. When a person has been detained and arrested (not free to go), his or her Miranda rights must be explained.

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What Are The “Miranda Rights”?

If a suspect is under arrest (in police custody) and being questioned (interrogated) about criminal activity, the police must inform the individual of his or her constitutional rights (also known as “Miranda Rights”). The following statement summarizes these rights:

“You have the right to remain silent. You have the right to have an attorney present when we question you, and if you cannot afford an attorney one will be appointed for you. If you waive these rights and talk to us, anything you say may be used against you in court. Do you understand these rights?”

If the suspect has not been arrested, a “Miranda warning” is not required. The same is true if a suspect has been detained but hasn’t been questioned. If a suspect refuses to answer questions after receiving a Miranda warning, the police may return—typically within two weeks—and provide the warnings again and see if they have better luck.

If a suspect invokes rights under Miranda, for example, by asking to speak to an attorney before speaking with the cops, statements obtained without the assistance of counsel would generally be excluded in court.

Know Your Rights When Being Pulled Over By The Police

Each person has the right to remain silent. If you’re a passenger, you have the option of asking whether you can go. If yes, go silently. The most important thing is to reduce risk to yourself. How can you achieve that? Follow these steps:

  • When you stop your car, make sure it is in a safe place.
  • Turn off the car, turn on the internal light, and open the window. If you’re in the passenger seat, put your hands on the dashboard.
  • The police might ask to see your identification and proof of insurance. Give them these things if they ask.
  • Keep your hands where the officer can see them, and don’t make unexpected movements.

Now, let’s say the situation has escalated and you have been arrested or detained. What can you do now? You may say you want to remain quiet and request a lawyer right away. Make no excuses or explanations. Do not speak, sign anything, or make any decisions without the advice of counsel. But, what happens if your rights were violated?

Take notes as you recall their faces, including cops’ badges and car numbers, the department they came from, and anything else that comes to mind. Get hold of witness contact information. Seek medical attention as soon as possible, and take photographs of your injuries if you’re hurt. File a written complaint with the agency’s internal affairs department or civilian complaint board in most situations. If you want to file a complaint without giving your name, you can usually do so.

Witnessing Police Brutality: What Are Your Rights?

Stand at a safe distance and, if possible, use your phone to shoot a video of what’s going on. You have the right to observe and record events that are visible in public areas as long as you do not interfere with what the cops are doing and do not stand close enough to obstruct their movements.

When recording, do not try to conceal it. Police officers have no reasonable expectation of privacy while on duty, but the individuals they are dealing with may have expectations of seclusion that would necessitate notification if you record them. In many jurisdictions, you must specifically notify everyone that you are recording them. Fortunately, California is not one of them.

You should respectfully but firmly tell the officer that you do not consent to stop recording or give up your phone, and remind him or her that taking photographs or video is your legal right under the First Amendment.

Be cautious that some cops may arrest you for refusing to follow unconstitutional orders. The arrest would be unlawful, but you must balance the personal hazards of arrest (including the risk of being searched upon arrest) against the value of continuing to film.

Make a note of everything you remember, including cops’ badges and patrol car license plates, which agency the cops were from, how many officers were there and what their names were, any use of weapons (including less-lethal weapons such as Tasers or batons), and any injuries incurred by the person being detained.

If you can contact the individual stopped by police after the police have left, they may find your information useful in case they choose to file a complaint or pursue a lawsuit against the cops.

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Kirakosian Law And Your Rights

We also stand up to government entities when there’s evidence of misconduct by our civic leaders and members of law enforcement. We have no problem taking cases to federal court.

Excessive force and police misconduct are a growing concern in our society. Our firm actively pursues cases involving improper conduct, false arrests, unjustified shootings, and other abuses of power.

If we can’t reach an appropriate settlement through mediation, we are fully prepared to take civil cases to trial. Mr. Kirakosian was victorious in Los Angeles Federal Court, obtaining a large verdict for a man who sued the Los Angeles Police Department for violating his constitutional rights and for malicious prosecution by an on-duty LAPD detective.

We handle civil rights cases, including:

  • Police misconduct
  • Malicious prosecution
  • Wrongful arrest

If you or someone you know has suffered emotional distress or injury due to a civil rights violation, contact our attorney at Kirakosian Law APC for a free consultation.