If you have to talk to the police, you want to know exactly how to proceed. On one hand, you want the conversation to go smoothly without escalating the situation. On the other hand, you know that you have rights, and you do not want the police to walk all over you.
Whether you’ve been pulled over, stopped on the street or approached at your home, here are five tips for talking to the officers:
1. Make your actions clear and stay as visible as possible
Remember that the police are a bit nervous to talk to you, too. They’ll probably tell you to keep your hands in clear sight. Don’t make sudden movements. If you have to do anything that you think could get mistaken for an aggressive action — like taking your wallet out of your coat — just mention that you’re going to do it first.
2. Stay calm and collected
Don’t panic when you see the police, whether you have broken the law or not. Do not get angry. Try to keep all of your emotions in check and stay calm. If you act aggressively — yelling about your innocence, for example — the police may not respond well to it, even if you’re right and you are innocent. Just stay calm and trust that you can sort everything out in a legal fashion.
3. Don’t swear
Legally, you do have a right to free speech. You can say anything you want. However, do not assume you can do so without any repercussions. Remember that you’re trying not to escalate the situation. Do not swear, yell or threaten the officer. In some cases, they can arrest you for unruly behavior, perhaps by citing that you’re disturbing the peace. Don’t give them a reason to do so.
4. Get clarification
Not sure if they’re arresting you or just asking questions? You can ask. They have to tell you. Get clarification when you need it so that you know exactly where you stand.
5. Remember that you can say nothing
Police can’t arrest you for refusing to answer questions. You have that right. That doesn’t mean you should just stand there silently and refuse to engage. Instead, after every question, just politely inform the officer that you want to see your lawyer and you won’t answer any questions until you do. Remember that saying the wrong thing can hurt your case, so you never want to do so.
No matter what they accuse you of, you do have rights. Make sure you know where you stand and what criminal defense options you have.