You risk losing your legal rights when you don’t use them. Know when you shouldn’t consent. When ticketed and when signing, place “without prejudice” above your signature and after your name “U/D” for under duress. If you’re pulled over, chances are you are under duress, because you will be compelled or threatened in some way. In this way, you can take some additional measures to protect yourself legally.
When pulled over in traffic always be calm and cool. Check your ego and avoid digging a hole for yourself.
Per the 4th Amendment you are protected against unreasonable search and seizure. Per the 5th Amendment a person cannot be compelled to be a witness against himself. The best way to do this is to keep your mouth shut. You have the right to remain silent, whether that makes you feel better at that moment or not. The 6th Amendment states that you have the right to counsel for your defense. It’s up to you to make smart choices.
The police may make false promises to you. Don’t let them fool you into waiving your rights. (Don’t you see this on cop shows? It happens all the time.) Your refusal to allow a search is not evidence of guilt and doesn’t give the officer legal right to search or detain you. Before an arrest, you may terminate your encounter at any time. Ask if you are free to go. “Officer, are you detaining me or am I free to go?” Avoiding a search may be best since you don’t what a previous owner may have left in your car. You also avoid waiving damage to your property.
You have the right to refuse. “I don’t consent to searches.” In fact, you have legal advantages to refusing a search. If you are searched without consent, your lawyer can challenge this. Remember that police must have evidence or clear cause that you are involved in criminal activity. Being tricked into consent is how most people lose their rights.
Don’t expose yourself by acting irresponsibly or being a public nuisance. However, living in a low-income community doesn’t waive your rights. Don’t give them probable cause or create suspicion. They can pat you down to see if you are armed. You aren’t required to empty your pockets as this is waiving your right against a search without cause. You aren’t required to consent. “Officer, I’m not resisting, but I don’t consent to searches.” Don’t physically resist. If you are cuffed and threatened with arrest or police try to get you to admit to any activity you are not involved in, you can say: “I’m going to remain silent. I’d like to see a lawyer.” When you are under arrest or being interrogated, these words are your best protection. Keep your mouth shut. You can’t expect to talk your way out of a police interrogation. Anything you say can and will be used against you in court. Don’t sign anything without a lawyer except a promise to appear in court.
Carrying an ID is only required by statute when driving. Otherwise, some states may require you to give your name. Police need reasonable suspicion to detain you. Simply ask if they are detaining you and if you’re free to go. If they don’t physically detain you, you are free to go. However, withholding your identity often leads to a detention or an arrest. If your goal is to quickly get on your way, then identifying yourself may be your best option. If you are willing to go to court, you can deny frequent ID requests.
Fighting against police misconduct is never easy, but it’s easier when you know your rights and act appropriately. You can file a legitimate complaint. If an officer has too many, he can removed from the streets. However, you will likely do yourself harm by threatening a complaint, so don’t make this mistake.
During any encounter pay close attention to details and events. Remember as much as you can about the officers: what they look like and names. Remember exactly what the officers said. If anyone witnessed the event, get with them about their recollection. Use whatever device you have to collect your thoughts and information. The longer you wait, the more you will forget. If you are injured by a police encounter, have photos made when you are at your worst and as soon as possible. Collect records for any medical treatment.
If officers knock at your door, do not consent to let them enter. You may ask if they have a warrant while keeping your door chain on. Their entrance may be a way to get you to consent to search your property. The 4th Amendment requires police to obtain a search warrant signed by a judge to search your home. Unless a serious emergency exists, police cannot enter your home without a search warrant. They don’t need a warrant if you invite them in. If you must talk with an officer, take your keys, lock your door and talk to them on the porch or sidewalk.
If police come to your door and you don’t need their help, you can simply decline to open the door, removing yourself to a more private place in the interior of your home.