If you go through your whole life without ever coming into direct contact with police, you can count yourself among the lucky. But when people are stopped and questioned by police, few really know what their rights are when they are confronted with law enforcement.
Under the U.S. Constitution, those detained or arrested have the right to remain silent, refusing to answer questions that police may ask other than providing identification if detained or arrested. People also have the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. They have the right to have an attorney present before answering questions.
The Right to Remain Silent
- The right to remain silent includes not answering questions about where you are going or coming from or whether you were involved in any activity the police are asking about. However, if the police stop you and hold you for questioning about a crime that has been committed or are arresting you on suspicion of taking part in a crime, you do have to identify yourself.
The Right to Be Free From Unreasonable Searches and Seizures
- Generally, if the police want to search your car or person, they need a search warrant. However, keep in mind that the police only need ‘probable cause’ to legally perform a search without a warrant. Probable cause means police must have factors or evidence leading them to believe you are involved in a crime. Once they do, the kid gloves may be off.
Say for example, you are pulled over for running a stop sign. If an officer detects the smell of marijuana emanating from your vehicle and spots drug paraphernalia in plain view on the console, they may have probable cause to search your car and seize any illegal contraband they find. You may not only be looking at a traffic citation for failure to stop, but a number of drug charges too if police have probable cause to conduct a search your car.
On the flip side, if a police officer simply asks if they can take a look around the car without probable cause, you can firmly say no. That doesn’t mean they won’t, but making it clear you do not consent to a search may help protect your rights when police violate procedures.
Pat Downs – Are They Legal?
Don’t forget that a police officer can and probably will pat down clothing for weapons as a matter of safety when detaining or arresting individuals. Do not carry illegal items on your person to avoid charges.
The Right to an Attorney
- Time and again, those questioned in relation to a crime believe that if they cooperate fully – providing answers to all questions asked – they will clear their name. They may think that talking there way out of it will minimize their involvement in a crime or hope they just seem less guilty in the eyes of the police. If you are detained or arrested, it is a far better idea to get the help of an attorney who understands the law. If you cannot afford an attorney, you have the right to a court appointed lawyer to represent you before you are subjected to police questioning. Take advantage of it.
Stay Cool, Calm and Collected
While those detained do have rights, they must not resist in any way, nor obstruct officers from doing their job. It is not okay to lie to the police or provide false documents. It is very important to stay calm, not raising your voice or slinging insults at the police, and always keep your hands in plain view. Knowing that you have legal rights under the constitution will put a confrontation with the police into perspective.
Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer
The Waukesha criminal defense lawyers of Andrew C. Ladd, LLC, have more than 50 years of combined experience with Wisconsin and federal criminal charges. We provide our clients with a strategic and aggressive criminal defense against a range of criminal charges. If you have been arrested or charged with a crime, contact the criminal defense lawyers of Andrew C Ladd LLC for immediate assistance at 262-542-3900