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If Stopped on the Street, What Should I Do?

If Stopped on the Street, What Should I Do?

With just a little "C.A.R.E." - our information can be easily remembered - by all sides - to guide any interaction: 

  • C — Comply with the law
  • A — Act orderly
  • R — Respect each other (with our words and actions)
  • E — Empathize - stand in each other's shoes

Stay Safe on the Streets.
Contest in the Courts. 

What To Do

  • Always try to carry some form of photographic identification. If stopped, the police will need to identify you. It also will be helpful to you for ordinary day-to-day purposes. You do not need a driver’s license. There are many forms of photographic identifications available (for example, governmental, business and school). 
  • Although it can be difficult, try to remain as calm and relaxed as possible.
  • Be polite and respectful. Watch your actions and your words.
  • Comply first. Do exactly what the officer asks you to do. 
  • Even if you think it is unfair or unreasonable, comply with police instructions - no matter if a police officer approaches directly, shouts from a distance, whistles from afar, or uses a siren. 
  • Make sure you inform the officer before you make any movements so he/she has time to know what you are doing and to respond.
  • Do not move towards the officer, unless asked. Generally, stand 2-3 feet away and await instructions.
  • Always keep your hands in clear view—where the officer can see them.     
  • Keep your hands open to avoid any concern that you might be about to strike the officer or are holding a weapon or illegal object.
  • Try to maintain eye contact with the officer. Keep your body, voice and expressions as calm and relaxed as possible.
  • Do not turn your back to the officer or otherwise turn away. 
  • Looking around, waving your arms, or moving your feet can make officers feel that there is a risk to their safety or the safety of others. 
  • Comply with any request to discontinue the use of your cell phone.
  • If you are smoking, the officer may ask you to put out your cigarette. You should comply with this request. Lit cigarettes have been used as a weapon. Also, smoke can interfere with the officer's ability to see the area and to do their job. 
  • If you have a dangerous medical condition or are ill, advise the officer immediately.
  • If you are wearing a hood, cap or dark glasses, it may be helpful to explain to the officer that you are willing to take these items off. 
  • Advise the officer immediately, if you are legally carrying a weapon or any item that may be dangerous. (This is what off-duty officers do)

What To Avoid

  • Don't give the police a reason to suspect you, fear you, distrust you, use force against you or bring additional charges. 
  • Never pretend not to hear police instructions.
  • Never try to run, flee, or hide—even if you feel scared or nervous, have somewhere to go, or feel that you are being unfairly stopped.
  • Even if you think you can avoid the police, there may be other officers in the vicinity - often in plain clothes - who will respond.
  • Fleeing from the police only leads to the potential for a dangerous chase, serious injury, and additional criminal charges. 
  • Avoid making sudden or other movements (for your wallet, for your coat, toward your waistband, etc.). These movements might give officers concern for their own or the public’s safety.
  • Do not turn your back to the officer or otherwise turn away.
  • Never resist being frisked or patted down - even when it is without your consent.
  • Never illegally carry weapons or false identification.
  • Do not carry or play with fake/toy weapons.
  • Never allow children to have toys in public that in any way could be mistaken for a weapon.
  • Do not touch the officer or violate the officer’s personal body space.
  • Never touch or reach for an officers’ weapon, even in jest.  
  • Never interfere with or obstruct the police. This includes when they are detaining or arresting another person.
  • Never resist an arrest—even if it is without a warrant or you believe it to be a mistake or illegal.  

Good To Know

    • You have the right to remain silent. That is true whether you’ve just been temporarily detained or formally arrested. 
    • In some states, you are required to answer basic questions such as your name and address. But you’re not required to give a statement beyond that. You can simply say, “I choose not to answer that question.”
    • If answering questions, be truthful. Lying to the police can result in criminal charges. 
    • You may be “frisked” or “patted down”, if the police have a reasonable belief that you may be armed or dangerous. This involves feeling your outer clothing and any bags in your possession. 
    • You may want to carry photo identification. Otherwise, the police may have the right to detain you until you can be positively identified. 
    • Even if you do not have a license, there are other forms of governmental photographic identification that you can carry.
    • Never carry false identification. Possession is a crime. 
    • In general, the police may search you only when you are under arrest, they have reason to believe you pose an immediate danger, or they have a warrant (court approval). 
    • If they say they have a warrant, you may ask to see it. Again, do so politely. 
    • They may also ask you to agree (consent) to be searched. 
    • You do not have to consent to a search. 
    • The police cannot arrest you for refusing to consent to a search.
    • If you do not consent to a search, this may not stop the search from happening, but it will protect your rights if you have to go to court.
    • Assume all encounters with the police may be recorded in some way. Behave and speak accordingly.  
    • Remember, in today’s world there are security cameras everywhere and bystanders often use cell phones to record the activities of the police. In addition, the police increasingly have their own equipment to record actions and statements. 
    • If you think the officer has no legal reason to stop you, you may request an explanation from the officer or the officer’s supervisor. Do so after the stop is over. Some police forces are supposed to give you a written document to explain the stop. Your requests should always be made in a calm and respectful tone.
    • If no explanation is given or you feel that you have been stopped without a basis, you may file a complaint against the police department.

Note: There are many ways to pursue your complaints after the encounter, often with the assistance of an attorney, or through government and community organizations, as well as the courts. Until then, avoid any additional problems. Keep yourself, the officer and the public safe. 

No one should get hurt or in trouble during a “stop”.  

Remember: Try to make a record of the officers’ names, badge numbers, patrol car numbers, and physical descriptions. Also, note (or ask others to make a record of) any witnesses or recordings that may have been made. Increasingly, officers, public security cameras and bystanders are recording events. Behave accordingly. 

The content conveyed in this app does not constitute legal advice, and should not be relied upon as such. It also is not intended to communicate all relevant information. Other sources on this subject may prove to be helpful, including local police departments, district attorneys, public defenders’, the U.S. Department of Justice and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Design and technology contributed by Genome.