Law and Legal

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There are certain basic rights that every American citizen should know. These rights are sometimes ignored by opportunistic law enforcement officers if a citizen does not know their rights. The truth is, once you give them permission, police can even infringe upon your rights.

Of course laws and what police are able to legally do to citizens varies from state to state, so it’s important to be aware of the nuances.

It’s also natural for ordinary folks to panic and act erratically when stopped by police.

Below are a few steps toward enacting your rights. These are rights that you are free to exercise, even when approached by law enforcement.

Step #1: Think Safety First!

Keep in mind your own and your approaching officer’s safety. Remember that you are both human beings who want to make it home at the end of the day. Pull over at a safe place, turn off your ignition, and stay in your car. Keep your hands on your steering wheel. If you have on a hat or sunglasses, the polite move is to take them off. Have your license, registration, and proof of insurance in an easily-accessible place. Build the officer’s trust by showing them you’re a respectable citizen. Address the officer as “sir” or “ma’am.”

Step #2: Avoid Saying Too Much!

Really, the only things you need to tell a police officer are your name, address, and date of birth. Nothing else! You could even go one step further and simply hand them your license, where they can access that information and more.

Please, for your own sake, do NOT volunteer any additional information. If they ask you any additional questions but do not mention a charge, ask them “Am I free to go?” You don’t have to say another word beyond that.

Step #3: Say the Words: “I’m Going to Remain Silent.”

Remember that anything you say can (and will) be used against you in a court of law. However, it just so happens that the Supreme Court has made a ruling that you should never talk to an officer without an attorney — but there is one catch. Before you have the right to not answer police and remain silent is only after you say, “I’m going to remain silent.”

Lastly, as far as searches go, a police officer is asking you for a reason. Never give a police officer permission to search not only your person, but also your car or your home. Keep saying, “I don’t consent to this search.”

So, in summary, give your ID, then let the officer know that you’re going to remain silent. Just say “no” to any searches, and keep asking “am I free to go.” You’ll find yourself in more of an advantageous position as a result.

Visit the Eric Wetlaufer site frequently and often for the latest in criminal justice, legal news, and knowing your rights.