Fairfax criminal lawyer Jon Katz knows that police are trained to persuade people to give up their Constitutional rights and to catch them off guard. Nobody is safe from becoming a Virginia criminal or DUI suspect, whether rightly or wrongly. Here is a non-exhaustive list of your essential rights when dealing with the police.
Nobody has an obligation to speak with the police other than when asked for one’s name. If you are a criminal suspect, it rarely helps to speak with the police. If you are unsure whether you are a suspect, it is better not to speak with the police obefore obtaining the advice of a qualified criminal defense lawyer.
MAY I REFUSE TO GIVE POLICE MY NAME OR IDENTIFICATION IF I AM NOT DRIVING A CAR?
Non-drivers are not required to carry nor show identification to police. Depending on the governing law and jurisdiction, it might be a crime to refuse to give one’s name when police have reasonable articulable suspicion that the suspect has committed a crime. Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial District Court, 542 U.S. 177 (2004).
MUST DRIVERS SHOW THE POLICE IDENTIFICATION
Lawfully stopped drivers take risks when declining police requests to see their license and vehicle registration. California v. Byers, 402 U.S. 424, 433-34 (1971).
IF THE POLICE STOP ME, WHAT DO I DO?
You can assert your rights without being confrontational. For instance:
POLICE OFFICER: Excuse me, would you tell me where you are going?
CIVILIAN: No, officer.
POLICE OFFICER: Why not?
CIVILIAN: I choose not to speak, officer.
POLICE OFFICER: Please pop open your trunk.
CIVILIAN: No, officer.
IF THE POLICE UNLAWFULLY DETAIN ME, MAY I USE PHYSICAL FORCE?
Even if you believe your arrest is unlawful, a judge or jury may not agree. Moreover, some jurisdictions prohibit physical force even against an unlawful police arrest.
MAY I REFUSE POLICE SEARCHES OF MY PERSON, PROPERTY, CAR OR HOUSE?
Yes. If you do not agree to a search, clearly say so. However, do not physically interfere with any search by the police.
IF THE POLICE SHOW ME A SEARCH WARRANT, MUST I ASSIST IN FINDING THE ITEMS THEY SEEK, AND IN OPENING LOCKED OR PASSWORD-PROTECTED ITEMS?
No. Generally, you have the right passively to resist the police, by not showing any physical obstruction, on the one hand, and by not providing assistance, on the other.
MUST I REMAIN WITH THE POLICE MERELY BECAUSE THE POLICE ARE SPEAKING TO ME?
If you are unsure whether you are free to leave, ask if you are free to leave. If the police do not allow you to leave, ask the reason.
WHAT DO I DO IF SUSPECTED OF DRINKING AND DRIVING?
Remember your right to remain silent with police. Beware the junk science of field sobriety tests, know your option to refuse them, and beware any risks that refusal will be admissible at trial. Beware the junk science of handheld roadside breath tests. Beware the double-edged sword of taking a breath or blood alcohol test post-arrest and thereby making the prosecutor’s job easier, and the penalties to your driving privileges and liberty that might result from refusing such testing.
WHAT DO I DO IF THE POLICE THREATEN ME WITH ARREST, ARREST ME, SEIZE MY PROPERTY, MISTREAT ME, NOT READ ME MY RIGHTS, PUT ME UNDER SURVEILLANCE, TELL ME I’M MAKING TOO BIG A DEAL OF THE SITUATION BY WANTING A LAWYER, OR ASK ME TO “HELP” OR COOPERATE WITH THEM IN EXCHANGE FOR POSSIBLE LENIENCY?
Consult with a qualified criminal defense lawyer to level the playing field in dealing with the police, and to avoid devastating landmines in advance. If you cannot afford a lawyer, you will be eligible for court-appointed or public defender counsel by the time you are formally charged with committing a crime, if you ever are charged with a crime, at the very latest. Some court-appointed counsel and public defender systems make indigent defense counsel available before a person is arrested or indicted for an alleged crime. Your rights to a lawyer and to remain silent are sacred and are enshrined in the Constitution’s Bill of Rights. U.S. Constitution, Fifth and Sixth Amendments.
Fairfax criminal lawyer Jonathan L. Katz since 1991 has been defending thousands of criminal defendants and pursuing their best defense against felony, misdemeanor and DUI prosecutions. Call (703) 383-1100 for a free confidential consultation with Jon Katz about your court-pending criminal or DWI case.