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What you need to know about being detained by the police

Have you ever had to learn something, whether back in school, in the workforce or perhaps in real life settings, and figured at the time that you would never need that nugget of information? Then one day, lo and behold, that very thing that you learned that day literally saves your bacon because you remembered it.

Well, here comes another one of those important tidbits: What you should (and shouldn’t) do when detained by the police. You may be a law-abiding citizen with no plan to ever break the law and still wind up accused of horrible crimes. The allegations and arrest may be out of your control, but whether you get convicted can hinge in part on what you do during and immediately after your arrest. Read on for some solid advice from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

When the cops stop you on the street

Maybe you are being profiled and maybe you really do look just like the guy who held up a convenience store a couple blocks away. Either way, the cops stopped you walking down the street. Here’s what you need to do.

  • Don’t run. All that will accomplish is a police chase while making you look very guilty of something. Some people tend to run out of sheer panic, but it doesn’t work out too well for them.
  • Don’t consent to any searches. Neither your person nor your belongings (purse, backpack, etc.) can be legally searched by police without a warrant or consent, but your objection must be verbal.
  • You have the right to refuse to answer police questions. Some people make the mistake of answering seemingly innocuous questions by the cops while they are detained. By doing so, you lock yourself into a story, as it is illegal to lie to the police. Announce that you are exercising your right to remain silent and do so.

What the cops are permitted to do

Police officers have the right to pat detained persons down for weapons with no warrant. Resisting will only make your situation worse. Some police officers will carry this pat-down too far and search your possessions without a warrant. Leave that for your criminal defense attorney to dispute later if the matter ever gets to court.