Encounters with law enforcement can be intimidating. One can never be truly ready to deal with them, especially when nerves take over sound reasoning. Often, people don’t know how to act or what to say.
No one is immune to the possibility of crossing paths with the law. Even if you trade on the straight and narrow, one thing or the other could lead you to engage with them.
If you’re like most, then articles like this could be educative and may prove helpful when your turn to interact with the law people comes. After all, many people don’t know or understand the rights afforded to them when it comes to interacting with the police. And, they often don’t know the level of compliance required of them when approached.
If you cross paths with an officer and you have no choice but to deal with them, follow these tips.
1. Stay Cool and Calm
Always stay calm and collected when dealing with law enforcement. They’re compelled to act within the confines of the law, so you don’t have to be scared of them––they are not going to hurt you for no just cause.
If you show signs of jitters or nervousness, law enforcers could construe it as suspicious conduct. It’s been said that taking deep breaths helps with anxiety and calms your nerves.
2. Hands off Officers
If you touch police officers, they’ll naturally assume you’re hostile. You can’t blame them; police officers typically carry weapons like tasers and guns. They have no way of knowing that you don’t intend to grab their weapons and endanger them if you touch them.
Touching a police officer translates to trouble. Remember, they are specially trained to handle aggressive behavior. The best you could do to avoid being received with hostility is to keep your hands where they’re visible.
3. Always Keep your Identification Handy
Always carry your identification card in case you need to present it to law enforcement. If a traffic police officer stops you, you may be asked to show your license and registration. Always have those ready as well.
4. If you Need Clarity Ask
Dealing with law enforcement doesn’t mean jail time. Be free to ask as many questions as you like. Officers are required to give you information about their intentions with you. Just remember to be civil when you ask your questions.
5. No Warrant No Searching
Law enforcement officers are legally compelled to possess a warrant for searching your car, office, or home. Therefore, you’ll be within the confines of the law if you ask for a warrant before allowing them to search your property. However, an officer is allowed to do a body search if they suspect you’re carrying a weapon.
6. Read the Warrant
As highlighted earlier, you have the right to deny them entry to your property if officers fail to produce a warrant. But if they do present one, read it and allow them to access only the specified areas. If you don’t read it, you could risk being taken advantage of.
7. Never Physically Resist
Never resist engagement with law enforcement agents, or else you’d be calling for trouble. Resisting arrest could get you in serious trouble because it’s not only suspicious, but it could also agitate them. If you stir officers, they could retaliate—and chances are you wouldn’t like it.
8. Don’t Admit or Deny
According to the Miranda Law, it is your right to remain completely silent even if you are questioned. Always keep in mind that anything you might say during the encounter will be used against you in court. You have to be careful about what comes out of your mouth: the fewer your words, the better for you.
If you’re being questioned while in police custody, you can plead the Fifth Amendment. This is a law that allows you to remain silent if you don’t want to self-incriminate. Should you wish to confess, it’s advisable to do so after consulting your lawyer.
9. Don’t Lie
Because it’s your right to remain silent, you can choose not to answer questions you’re not sure about. But never lie; it could get you in trouble later when the truth comes out.
10. You’re Entitled to a Phone Call and Ask for a Lawyer
If you’re arrested for some reason, remember that you have the right to a phone call. Make the best of that right by calling a lawyer. Since you have a legal right to a lawyer, feel free to ask for one politely. You don’t have to explain why you need a lawyer, though. If you can’t afford legal representation, you’re entitled to a free counselor. When you call the lawyer, officers are prohibited from listening in on your conversation.
Make sure you don’t make any decisions or sign anything without legal advice from a lawyer.
11. Always Try to Cooperate
Even in cases where you may disagree with the conduct of police officers, always try to be cool and cooperative. Never threaten to report their misconduct—doing so would get them worked up or stirred.
If you need to file a complaint, do it later after dealing with the officers. Gather evidence to support your claims when you make the official complaint. Such evidence may include photos or doctors’ reports.
12. Do your Best to Communicate Clearly
Be clear and straight to the point when dealing with law enforcement. Waffling could be easily considered to be a sign of lying or suspicious behavior. When you communicate coherently, it shows confidence and could put you in a good light.
No matter who you are, you could end up having to deal with law enforcement. It can be nerve-wracking, so much so that you could end up saying the wrong things or even incriminating yourself.
When dealing with law enforcement, just remember the following key tips:
- Abide by the law
- Show respect
- Never admit or deny
- Avoid aggression
- Know your rights
- Note all details
- Know when to argue
- Know when to hire a lawyer
If these tips don’t do much to help you deal with law enforcement, always remember to call a lawyer. Lawyers act in your best interest when you’re not sure what to say or do.