What Should I Do If Police Stop Me in the Street?

Being stopped by police can evoke a number of emotions – – fear, frustration, anger, etc.  However, there are a number of suggestions that I can recommend in order to make the encounter as smooth as possible, regardless of the reason for the stop.  A word of explanation before continuing.  The police may or may not be correct for stopping the individual involved.  The tips that I offer before apply regardless of the propriety of the reason of the street stop.  That being said, the best thing a person stopped can do is to make sure not to escalate the situation.  Here are some suggestions to promote that objective:

    1. KEEP YOUR HANDS VISIBLE AT ALL TIMES – – police do not know whether an individual that they approach is armed or not.  The police officer’s main concern throughout the encounter is the officer’s safety and the safety of his or her  partner.  All actions that a police officer takes during the street encounter will be guided by this chief concern.  The less a person being stopped by the police does to threaten an officer’s concern for his or her safety the better for all involved;
    2. DO NOT FLEE OR MOVE ANY PART OF YOUR BODY WITHOUT BEING INSTRUCTED OR GIVEN PERMISSION TO DO SO – – this goes back to the safety concern.  This caution includes not reaching into one’s pocket to present identification or the like to the officer without being prompted to do so.  Get permission first.   One should realize that the police commonly will use any arm waving or gesture as a pretext to add on an accusation of resisting arrest, oftentimes blowing the entire encounter out of proportion;
    3. DO NOT RESIST – – this is not the time to argue with the police officer, regardless of how unjustified the stop may be.  There are many remedies available to challenge the legality of the stop and the police conduct including suppression of evidence in a criminal or the commencement of a civil law suit against the officer.  The time and place for these remedies are later on in a courtroom or in a lawyer’s office, not during the street encounter;
    4. DO NOT ARGUE OR TRY TO REASON WITH THE OFFICER – – understand that no matter how unfair the stop and subsequent police behavior may be, the police are in control of the situation.  Arguing or “reasoning” with them will not help.  If anything, it will only escalate an already unfortunate experience;
    5. BE AN ACTIVE OBSERVER – -this is not easy, but is very important.  Your observations of what the officer says and the way he acts on the scene are critical to any legal challenge or suit your lawyer may bring forth later on your behalf;
    6. DO NOT MAKE A STATEMENT – – police officers pretty much have their minds made up of what is going to take place once an individual is stopped, so talking to them is not going to change the outcome.  There is also a misconception that police must read you your Miranda rights before a statement can be used against you.  That is simply not true.  Miranda rights need only be given if the police initiate questioning of a person arrested or otherwise not free to leave.  Any other statement the person stopped may make to the police, regardless of how innocent or innocuous the statement may be, can be reported by the officer and described in a way that will seem like an admission to wrongdoing by the individual.  These inaccurate portrayals are further used by prosecutors in court to strengthen their cases.  The less a person says, the less likely his or her words can be misrepresented;

    Finally, regardless of whether an arrest takes place or not

    1. CONTACT AN ATTORNEY AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.  As stated earlier, your lawyer can help you challenge the legality of the stop and what takes place during the stop.  There are certain time limits to seek these remedies so contacting an attorney such as Ezra C. Levy as soon as possible is of the essence.

    Hopefully, you found this article helpful.  Keep checking for future posts from Attorney Ezra C. Levy.

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