Know Your Rights – FAQs
Know your rights if you are questioned by law enforcement personnel (the police, FBI, etc.).
Q: Do I have to refuse to respond to questions that are asked by law enforcement officials?
A: The United States Constitution guarantees each and every individual under the 5th amendment the right to remain silent. It is not against the law to refuse to answer questions. It is strongly recommended you talk with a lawyer before agreeing to be interviewed by law enforcement officials. Even in the event you are arrested or are in jail, you still do not have to answer questions posed to you by law enforcement officials.
Q: Do I have a right to meet with and talk to a lawyer in the event I am contacted by law enforcement officials?
A: You have the right to talk to a lawyer before being interviewed by law enforcement officials. A lawyer’s job is to advise you of your rights and see to it that you do not inadvertently make statements that can be used against you in a court of law. If you advise law enforcement officials that you want to speak to a lawyer, they should stop questioning you until such time as you have had a reasonable opportunity to meet with an attorney. In the event you do not have a lawyer or cannot afford a lawyer, you may still advise law enforcement officials that you want to speak to one before responding to any questions. In the event you are contacted by law enforcement officials, it is important you write the name or badge numbers down, obtain the telephone number and also try to obtain a business card from this law enforcement official. Thereafter, it is strongly recommended you turn this information over to your attorney.
Q: Can law enforcement offices search your home or place of business?
A: Police or other law enforcement offices do not have the authority to search your home or place of business unless you give them permission or they have a search warrant. A search warrant is an order from a court authorizing law enforcement individuals to search under specific guidelines. In the event law enforcement officials search your residence or place of business, you should make it clear that you do not consent to this search. Although police and law enforcement individuals need a warrant to search the place where you work, your employer can consent to this search even if you do not give your permission.
Q: What do I do if law enforcement officials show up at my residence with a search warrant?
A: Review the search warrant carefully to make sure that they are searching the correct location. The warrant must specify the places to be searched and the people or things that may be taken away. It is strongly suggested you call your lawyer immediately. Try to stay at the location that is being searched and take notes. The notes should include the badge numbers, phone numbers, names and all information regarding the law enforcement agency and or offices that are conducting the search.
Q: Do I have to answer law enforcement individual’s questions if they have a search warrant?
A: No. A search warrant does not require you to answer questions.
Q: What do I do if law enforcement officials or agents do not have a search warrant to search your house?
A: In the event law enforcement agents do not have a search warrant, you do not have to let them into your residence. You also do not have to answer questions.
Q: What if law enforcement agents break into your home without a search warrant?
A: Note your objections to the law enforcement officials clearly. Do not try to prevent them from searching your residence. Try to obtain other witnesses who are present who can corroborate your statements that you did not give the law enforcement officials permission to search your premises. Call your lawyer as soon as possible. It also is important to get the names, badge numbers and other information regarding the law enforcement officials who are searching your residence.
Q: What can I expect if I speak to law enforcement officers without having an attorney present?
A: To start with, anything you say or indicate can be used against you. It is important to be aware that lying to government officials can also be a crime. You have an absolute right not to answer questions and to remain silent. In the event you start to answer questions posed to you by law enforcement officials, you still have the right to stop answering questions at any time during the interview.
Q: What do I do if I am stopped by the police while driving my car?
A: To start with, it is important that you keep your hands either on the steering wheel or in a location where the police officer can see them. You do not have to consent to the search of your car. However, it should be noted that if the police feel there is probable cause that you have been involved in a crime or that there is evidence of a crime in you car, your car may be searched without your consent. You should state clearly that you do not consent to the search. In the event there are passengers in the vehicle, both the passengers and the driver may refuse to answer questions posed to them by law enforcement individuals.
Q: What do I do if threatened to be brought before a grand jury by a law enforcement official?
A: It is strongly suggested in this situation that you contact your attorney. Any testimony you may give before a grand jury may be used against you.
Q: In the event I am arrested, do I now have to answer questions?
A: No. If you are arrested you don’t have to answer questions. You should ask to have an attorney present. You should repeat your request to have an attorney present to every police officer and or law enforcement individual you speak to or see at the time of your arrest. It is extremely important to meet with an attorney and know your rights before providing testimony and or other information to law enforcement officials.
Q: What if you are assaulted by law enforcement officials?
A: Try to write down the law enforcement official’s badge number. Obtain identification information with regard to the law enforcement officials. In the event you are injured, seek medical attention.
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