We rely on the police to keep us safe and treat us all fairly, regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin or religion. This card provides tips for interacting with police and understanding your rights.

This information is not intended as legal advice.

 

YOUR RIGHTS

  • You have the right to remain silent. If you wish to exercise that right, say so out loud.
  • You have the right to refuse to consent to a search of yourself, your car or your home.
  • If you are not under arrest, ask ifyou are free to leave. If you may leave, do so calmly.
  • You have the right to a lawyer if you are arrested. Ask for one immediately.
  • Regardless of your immigration or citizenship status, you have constitutional rights.

YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES

  • Do stay calm and be polite.
  • Do not interfere with or obstruct the police.
  • Do not lie or give false documents.
  • Do remember the details of the encounter.
  • Do file a written complaint or call your local ACLU if you feel your rights have been violated.

IF YOU ARE STOPPED FOR QUESTIONING

Stay calm. Don’t run. Don’t argue, resist or obstruct the police, even if you are innocent or police are violating your rights. Keep your hands where police can see them.

Ask if you are free to leave. If the officer says yes, calmly and silently walk away. If you are under arrest, you have a right to know why.

You have the right to remain silent and cannot be punished for refusing to answer questions. If you wish to remain silent, tell the officer out loud. In some states, you must give your name if asked to identify yourself.

You do not have to consent to a search of yourself or your belongings, but police may “pat down” your clothing if they suspect a weapon. You should not physically resist, but you have the right to refuse consent for any further search. If you do consent, it can affect you later in court.

IF YOU ARE STOPPED IN YOUR CAR

Stop the car in a safe place as quickly as possible. Turn off the car, turn on the internal light, open the window part way and place your hands on the wheel.

Upon request, show police your driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance.

If an officer asks to look inside your car, you can refuse to consent to the search. But if police believe your car contains evidence of a crime, your car can be searched without your consent.

Both drivers and passengers have the right to remain silent. If you are a passenger, you can ask if you are free to leave. If the officer says yes, sit silently or calmly leave. Even if the officer says no, you have the right to remain silent.

IF LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENTS COME TO YOUR HOME

If the police or immigration agents come to your home, you do not have to let them in unless they have certain kinds of warrants.

Ask the officer to slip the warrant under the door or hold it up to the window so you can inspect it. A search warrant allows police to enter the address listed on the warrant, but officers can only search the areas and for the items listed. An arrest warrant allows police to enter the home of the person listed on the warrant if they believe the person is inside. A warrant of removal/deportation (ICE warrant) does not allow officers to enter a home without consent.

Even if officers have a warrant you have the right to remain silent.If you choose to speak to the officers, step outside and close the door.

IF YOU ARE CONTACTED BY THE FBI

If a FBI agent comes to your home or workplace, you do not have to answer any questions. Tell the agent you want to speak to a lawyer first.

If you are asked to meet with FBI agents for an interview, you have the right to say you do not want to be interviewed. If you agree to an interview, ask to have a lawyer present. You do not have to answer any questions you feel uncomfortable answering, and can say that you will only answer questions on a specific topic. 

IF YOU EXPECT THAT YOU MAY BE ARRESTED

  • Prepare yourself and your family in case you are arrested.
  • Memorize the phone numbers of your family and your lawyer. 
  • Make emergency plans if you have children or take medication.

IF YOU ARE ARRESTED

  • Do not resist arrest, even if you believe the arrest is unfair. Do not resist arrest, Say you wish to remain silent and ask for a lawyer immediately.
  • Don’t give any explanations or excuses. If you can’t pay for a lawyer, you have the right to a free one.
  • Don’t say anything, sign anything or make any decisions without a lawyer.
  • You have the right to make a local phone call. Assume the police listen, even if you call a lawyer.

Special considerations for non-citizens:

  • Ask your lawyer about the effect of a criminal conviction or plea on your immigration status.         
  • Don’t discuss with your immigration status with anyone but your lawyer.
  • While you are in jail, an immigration agent may visit you. Do not answer questions or sign anything before talking to a lawyer.
  • Read all the papers fully. If you do not understand or cannot read the papers, tell the officer you need an interpreter.

IF YOU FEEL YOUR RIGHTS HAVE BEEN VIOLATED

Remember: police misconduct cannot be challenged on the street.

Don’t physically resist officers or threaten to file a complaint.

Write down everything you remember, including the officers’ badge and patrol car numbers, which agency the officers were from, and any other details. Get contact information for witnesses. If you are injured, take photographs of your injuries (but seek medical attention first).

File a written complaint with the agency’s internal affairs division or civilian board. In most cases, you can file a complaint anonymously if you wish.

 

For more information on this topic and for a full list of ACLU Know Your Rights resources, visit aclu.org/kyr

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