When you encounter the police while out in public, you may not know what to do. Even if you haven’t broken the law, the unexpected scrutiny of an authority figure might make you very nervous.
Knowing what your rights are during an encounter with the police in a public space can help you stand up for your rights. When it comes to an interaction out on the sidewalk or in front of a business, knowing that you don’t have to talk to the police or incriminate yourself is important.
Determine whether you have to continue interacting with law enforcement
Trying to determine if you have an obligation to interact with police in a specific situation is an important step in minimizing your risk in such an encounter. If they have made statements that imply they suspect you of some kind of wrongdoing, you can ask them if you are under arrest or if you are being detained.
If the answer is yes to either, that means you are not free to leave. If you are free to leave, you can walk away without continuing to answer questions.
What happens when you aren’t free to leave?
If an officer wants to detain or arrest you, they think they have probable cause or reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. They will probably want to continue asking you questions. Even if you are not yet under arrest, you still have the right to remain silent.
You can also ask for a lawyer to be present even before an arrest occurs. You should definitely seek the help of an attorney if you are arrested and charged.