Being stopped by police is never a fun experience. Even if you have done nothing wrong, it can be downright scary to be pulled over and questioned by the authorities.
The good news is that in the United States, every person has rights under the law — regardless of immigration or citizenship status — and the police must respect those rights.
Your rights under the law include:
- The right to remain silent.
- The right to refuse to have yourself, your home or your vehicle searched without a warrant.
- The right to speak to an attorney.
Here are steps for exercising your rights, while also abiding by the law and preventing the situation from escalating, if you are pulled over by police or immigration agents:
- Stay calm and follow the officer’s instructions.
- Keep your hands where the officer can see them on the steering wheel. If you have tinted windows, roll them down. If it is dark out, turn on your dome light.
- If you feel that you are being stopped or ticketed unfairly, save your reasoning for the court hearing. Protesting to the officer could lead to arrest.
- Exercise your right to remain silent. You have the right to not answer any questions, but you must let the officer or agent know that you are exercising this right.
- You may tell the officer that you do not want your vehicle searched. They will need a warrant to do so unless they have probable cause to search without a warrant.
- If you are arrested, ask for an attorney right away. You do not have to answer any questions until your attorney is present.
- Do not resist arrest. Again, even if you believe that you are being arrested unfairly, resisting will only make the situation worse.
- Remember as many facts about the stop as you can. This may mean writing everything down when you are able. The information may be valuable in your case.
How to find a lawyer
If you cannot afford to pay for an attorney, you have a right to a free attorney if you are facing incarceration. However, public defenders are often overworked and have less time and fewer resources to dedicate to your defense.
When possible, it is important to hire a criminal defense lawyer to ensure that your best defense is put forward.