If You're Stopped Or Questioned By Police...
- Stay calm. Don't argue, resist, run away, or interfere with the officer (even if you think she or he is wrong). You can ask calmly if you're free to leave. If yes, calmly and silently walk away.
- If a police officer tells you that you're not free to go, in some states, she or he may require you to identify yourself.
- Know that you can assert your right to remain silent and can answer any question by saying, "I want to remain silent." You also have the right not to write or sign a statement. If you choose to speak or write about what happened, your words can be used against you.
- If you think you want to make a statement, you can also ask to have a lawyer, a parent, or another adult present before you are questioned. If you talk, your words can still be used against you, but it's the best way to protect your rights.
- Let an adult you trust know what happened. If you're hurt, see a doctor and tak pictures of your injuries.
- Afterwards, write down everything you remember (like the officer's badge number and name, who else was there, and what happened).
- A search is when an officer looks through your belongings, like your phone or your pockets, to find evidence of a crime.
- If an officer asks to search you and your belongings, you can say, "I do not consent to this search." This may not stop the search, but this is the best way to protect your rights.
- An officer cannot serach you based on a feeling, a rumor, the color of your skin, or the clothes you're wearing. For example, you can't be searched just because an officer thinks that you "look like" a drug dealer.
- The search must be related to teh crime that you're suspected of committing. For example, an officer cannot search your pockets if he or she thinks you stole a computer from school - you can't hide a computer in your pocket.
- Police adn school employees are NEVER allowed to strip search you.
- Do not resist arrest.
- If you're arrested, ask for a lawyer immediately.
- A police officer can only arrest you if she or he knows facts (not a rumor or guess) indicating that you probably committed a crime. For example, an officer can arrest you if she or he saw you steal a computer from school.
- Be smart: never resist an arrest or fight an officer.
- A police officer should never harass or bully you or make fun of a personal characteristic, like your race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. Also, police officers should never use more force than is reasonable. Tasing, use of pepper spray, handcuffing, or causing an injury can all qualify as excessive use of force.
- If you're allowed to use your phone at school, you're also allowed to take pictures of on-duty police in public areas at your school as long as you don't interfere with what they're doing. In some states you can also record them.
- Many schools have police that go by different names, such as School Resource Officer, Deputy, or School Safety Officer. Sometimes they also act as teachers and counselors. Remember: they are ALWAYS law enforcement agents. That means that if you tell them about criminal activity by you or someone you know, they could follow up or even make an arrest.
- When you interact with the police in school, be respectful. But don't be afraid to assert your rights.
- If you think your rights have been violated in anyway, call your local ACLU. (www.ACLU.org/affiliates)
This information is not intended as legal advice. Some state laws may vary. Separate rules apply at checkpoints and when entering the U.S. (including at airports). Updated Dec 2015.