Know Your Rights: Frequently Asked Questions

Key Rights to Remember:

  • You have the right to remain silent.
  • If you wish to exercise that right, say so out loud.
  • You have the right to refuse to consent to a search of yourself, your car or your home.
  • Police may "pat down" your clothing if they suspect a weapon and for officer safety. You should NOT physically reisist, but you have the right to refuse consent for any further search.
  • You have the right to a lawyer if you are arrested. Ask for one immediately.

Tips When Interacting with the Police:

  • Do stay calm and be polite.
  • Do not make sudden movements and keep your hands in full view
  • Do not interfere with or obstruct the police (even if you think they are wrong).
  • Do not lie or give false documents to law enforcement officers (it is always better to remain silent than provide false information)
  • Do remember the details of the encounter and provide that information to your attorney.

1. What should I do if I am stopped by the police in my car?

Stop the car in a safe place as quickly as possible and place your hands on the wheel or somewhere in full view. Upon request, show police your driver's license/identification, registration and proof of insurance.

If an officer asks to look inside your car, you can refuse to consent to the search. An exception to that is if the police have probable cause (in short form, they believe your car contains evidence of a crime). If police have probable cause, then your car can be searched without your consent. It is still VERY important that if you do not consent to a search that you say so clearly to the officer. However, if the police proceed to search the vehicle, do not resist or obstruct their search, but do clearly state your desire not to give consent to the search.

Both drivers and passengers have the right to remain silent. If you are a passenger, you can ask if you are free to leave. If the officer says yes, sit silently or calmly leave. Even if the officer says no, you have the right to remain silent.

2. What should I do if I am questioned about my immigration status?

You have the right to remain silent and do not have to discuss your immigration or citizenship status with police, immigration agents or any other officials. You do not have to answer questions about where you were born, whether you are a U.S. citizen, or how you entered the country. (Separate rules apply at international borders and airports, and for individuals on certain nonimmigrant visas, including tourists and business travelers.) If you are not a U.S. citizen and an immigration agent requests your immigration papers, you must show them if you have them with you. If you are 18 or older, carry your immigration documents with you at all times. If you do not have immigration papers, say you want to remain silent and only give them your name. Do not lie about your citizenship status or provide fake documents.

3. What should I do if the police come to my home?

If the police come to your home, you do not have to let them in unless they have certain kinds of warrants. Ask the officer to slip the warrant under the door or hold it up to the window so you can inspect it. A search warrant allows police to enter the address listed on the warrant, but officers can only search the areas and for the items listed. An arrest warrant allows police to enter the home of the person listed on the warrant if they believe the person is inside.

REMEMBER, Even if officers have a warrant, you have the right to remain silent. If you choose to speak to the officers, step outside and close the door behind you.

4. What should I do if I am arrested?

Do not resist arrest, even if you believe the police are wrong in arresting you. Clearly state that you wish to remain silent and ask for a lawyer immediately. Don't give any explanations or excuses. The best practice is not say anything, sign anything or make any decisions without a lawyer.

Special considerations for non-citizens:

Ask your lawyer about the effect of a criminal conviction or plea on your immigration status.

Don't discuss your immigration status with anyone but your lawyer.

While you are in jail, an immigration agent may visit you. Do not answer questions or sign anything before talking to a lawyer.

Read all papers fully. If you do not understand or cannot read the papers, tell the officer you need an interpreter.

*Some of the above information may change over time depending on legislative changes and/or court decisions. A portion of the above information was obtained from the American Civil Liberties Union "Know Your Rights" web page. For more information about "Know Your Rights," see https://www.aclu.org/know-your-rights.

5. What questions do you have about your criminal case and your rights?

Do you have questions about what you are required to do, what you are free not to do and how you can assert your rights if police or other authorities are not respecting them? Discuss these and other frequently asked questions regarding the criminal justice system with an experienced, recognized criminal defense attorney at Hunt & Tuegel, PLLC, in Waco, TX. In a free initial consultation, we will gladly interpret these and other rights that you have in light of whatever state or federal criminal charges you face.