No matter who you are, nobody likes to get stopped by the police. It is a stressful experience that can escalate quickly. There are a few different ways that you can encounter a police stop. You can get stopped in public, pulled over in an automobile or they can show up at your door. Whatever the scenario, there are laws and rights that govern the interaction. Here at Curtis Legal Services, we have decided to do a 3-part “Know Your Rights” series on getting stopped by the police. We will describe what the law requires in these scenarios and offer strategies for handling each so that you may be able to reduce the risk of escalation. These strategies are also in concert with the ACLU and Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy. Part one of this series will cover when you get stopped by the police in a public setting such a sidewalk, store, or an event.

If you are stopped in a public setting by a police officer, you have rights. You have the right to remain silent and do not have to answer any questions about where you live, where you are going, what you are doing, or where you are coming from. If you do want to remain silent, you need to state that out loud to the officer. You can say, “I do not want to talk to you” and walk away calmly or ask if you are free to go. Do not ignore them, run, get aggressive or angry. In some states, an officer can require that you provide identification. Kentucky is one of those states. Also, if you do consent to answer questions, you always have the right to withdraw your consent if you wish to not continue. But remember, there is never an “off the record” when it comes to talking to the police.

If the officer says you are not free to go, then they are detaining you for questioning. Detaining is not being arrested. In this case, you are not required to be read your Miranda rights. Again, the only thing you are required to give them is your name. If the police have “reasonable suspicion” that you are possibly armed or a danger, they can pat you down outside of your clothing. You must consent to a search that goes further to include yourself or your belongings.

If the police go further than a pat down, clearly tell them you do not consent, but do not fight or resist. If they arrest you, you have the right to a government-appointed attorney if you cannot afford to hire one. Clearly stating you do not consent and that you do not want to answer questions helps your case and preserves your rights if there is a legal proceeding. Always speak to a lawyer before answering questions that are being asked by the police.

If you can find yourself detained or arrested by the police, try to keep track of witnesses, officers’ names, and car numbers. Stam calm and do not run. Do not lie or give them false information or documents. Always keep your hands in plain view and do not make sudden movements. Always be clear about your wish to not answer questions or to deny search.  Do not sign anything and ask for a lawyer. You have the right to make a local phone call, so always have a phone number you know by memory.

These are some very general strategies we all can follow if stopped by the police in a public setting. But know this, you are not responsible to de-escalate the situation. The police are responsible. Despite this, there are some officers do not behave in that manner. Using these strategies will help you remain calm and not show hostility, but there are some cases where nothing you do will help. If you have be detained or arrested, whether lawfully or unlawfully, you need an attorney. Here at Curtis Legal Services we will review your case for FREE. We have been fighting for peoples’ rights for over 30 years. Let us help protect yours!