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HomeLegal KnowledgeYour Legal Rights When Dealing With Law Enforcement

Dealing with Law Enforcement

Interacting with the police can be stressful and uncomfortable when there is no wrong done. The news about people always facing police brutality has worsened situations when interacting with law enforcement. Knowing what your rights are and how to protect yourself when dealing with the police makes the interaction with law enforcement less stressful. People’s rights have evolved, and the police are required to uphold the rule of law when dealing with individuals. Information on what to do when dealing with the police, what not to do, and the rights a person has in different scenarios form the basis of this discussion as the choices one makes when dealing with the police impact their case.

During a traffic stop, it is crucial to stay calm and polite. If a person shows aggressive behavior, the police can feel threatened. It is advisable to be respectful by minding one’s tone, language, and body language. It can be frustrating to show respect to the police officers when one feels that the police officer is not showing respect. However, being respectful can prevent the worsening of a bad situation. Immediately pull over when pulled over by the police and place your hands on the wheel. The police are legally allowed to ask you to step out of the car, and you should comply. However, Miranda rights state that one does not have to have a conversation with the police (Rogers et al., 2016). Assert that you know your rights calmly and not claim to know influential Judges, attorneys, or that you are an influential person. Your car lights should be on to show the police officer that you are unarmed and avoid reaching for paperwork before they ask.

If there are passengers in the vehicle, they always need to keep their hands visible and avoid making sudden movements. Law enforcement officers are required to be on high alert, and sudden voluntary movements can mean aggression. Inform the officer if you have any weapon that is concealed and permitted, and where it is located in the vehicle since it is not unlawful to carry a concealed and permitted weapon (U. S. Const. amend. II). Allow the officer to talk, and if asked if you know why you were stopped, it is okay to reply that you don’t. The officer is obligated to inform you of the reason for stopping you, and unless they are arresting you, then they should let you go.

Justice Powell opined that while the law of search and seizure in automobiles is intolerably confusing, the general rule is that a warrant is required to conduct a valid search but not when conducting searches that are unwarranted on vehicles (Robbins V. California, 1981). The exception to this rule was held in (Carroll V. United States, 1925). When the police have probable cause, they can search and seize vehicles and the containers within it. The police are mandated to follow standard procedures when conducting searches and not to do so in bad faith.

The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects citizens against unreasonable seizures and searches. Much as probable cause is necessary for searches and seizures, it does not give the police the right to search people. However, if there is probable cause for the car search, then the police may search areas capable of concealing the search object, including conducting body searches and passengers. A police officer can separate the driver from the passengers and question them about their travel plans (U.S V. Legge, 2011). The police can conduct searches on exigent circumstances without a warrant. For instance, when responding to a 911 call that there are gunshots fired in a particular area, they are allowed to make a response. The police may also search your car when there is reasonable suspicion or evidence of a crime. They may stop and frisk you if there is evidence of criminal activity and that you are armed and dangerous. The police may not use evidence obtained through an illegal search and seizure against you during the trial. Additionally, the police may not use evidence obtained in unlawful search and seizure to find other evidence. When a police search is illegal, the judge dismisses the case as illegally obtained evidence is inadmissible in a court of law.

Law enforcement officers use the knock and talk as an investigative technique. Police officers approach a residential area, knocks at the door, and seeks consent from the owner to search the residence. When a police officer knocks on a door without a warrant, they do so just like any private citizen (Kentucky V. King, 2011). Therefore, the occupant of the residence is under no obligation to speak or open the door. However, the police may enter a residential area without a warrant and consent if they have probable cause and in exigent circumstances. Exigent circumstances are the facts articulated by the police. They may comprise, chasing a fleeing suspect who enters a particular home, preventing the destruction of evidence, and cases of emergency aid. Probable cause may consist, suspicion of ongoing criminal activities within the residence, suspicion of illegal drugs within the residential area and, suspicion of harboring a fugitive.

A police officer can approach you, ask questions, and even search you without any reason to suspect any wrongdoing. The police officer will not have infringed upon your rights unless he suggests that you are bound to agree to a search (U.S V. Dayton, 2002). A person has a right to walk away from the police unless they have probable cause to make an arrest, a reasonable suspicion to conduct a body search and a warrant. However, a police officer may have a legal basis for the stop and frisk even if the person stopped is innocent of any wrongdoing. Walking away from the police will give an officer the right to forcibly detain a person leaving the interview. People who tend to walk away from the police interviewing them should make sure that the police have no intention of detention. If the officer insists that you stay and answer their questions, you must stay and answer them. The question of whether the police officer had the legal basis for the stop and frisk is an issue to be determined later in a court of law. Most Americans do not trust law enforcement officers because of the use of excessive force, treating certain racial groups unequally, and not held accountable for their actions.

Law enforcement training involves psychological tactics of social influence, and detectives use psychological manipulation to get confessions of crimes. They exploit weaknesses in human nature when exposed to certain levels of stress. People who experience contrasting extremes like control, dominance, and the maximization of consequences during interrogations are likely to make confessions even when they are innocent. In (Miranda V. Arizona, 1966), the Supreme Court held that under the Fifth Amendment, statements made by the defendant during interrogation are admissible in court only if the defendant was informed their right to remain silent and the right to speak to an attorney before the commencement of questioning. The defendant must also have either exercised the right or waived it knowingly and intelligently. The police must clearly and expressly advise a suspect of his right to silence and counsel before the commencement of interrogation to safeguard the suspect’s rights against self- incrimination. However, the police may use the technique involving one cop browbeating a suspect, and the other pretends to look out for him to gain the suspect’s trust. Maximization entails the police describing to the suspect the horrible things that will happen if convicted should they fail to give a confession. These tactics should not intimidate you into giving a false confession, and one should pledge the Fifth Amendment.

The human rights of a United States citizen under arrest, are provided for in the Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendment of the Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution. The Fifth Amendment protects citizens against self-incrimination during arrest and interrogation, under the Sixth Amendment, the accused receives a fair and expedited trial. The Eighth Amendment protects the accused against exorbitant fines and excessive punishment. If arrested, it is important not to resist arrest even if you are innocent. Resisting arrest attracts a misdemeanor charge. Do not resist a police officer frisking you as it is legal for them to search you when carrying out an arrest. After being taken into custody, you must be informed of your Miranda rights. You are also entitled to a telephone call for purposes of contacting your attorney or family member. You are entitled to be booked within a reasonable time and presented to the court within a reasonable time.

Understanding one’s rights when interacting with law enforcement officers ensures peaceful co-existence between law enforcement officers and the community and enhances mutual trust. Understanding the scope of the justice system helps citizens to make informed choices when dealing with law enforcement officers and the law.


Carroll V. United States (1925).

Kentucky V. King (2011).

Miranda V. Arizona (1966).

Robbins V. California (1981).

Rogers, R., Steadham, J., Carter, R., Henry, S., Drogin, E., & Robinson, E. (2016). An Examination of Juveniles’ Miranda Abilities: Investigating Differences in Miranda Recall and Reasoning. Behavioral Sciences & The Law34(4), 515-538. https://doi.org/10.1002/bsl.2243

The Constitution of the United States (1787).

U.S V. Legge (2011).

U.S V. Dayton (2002).



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