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If Stopped on the Street, What Should I Say?

If Stopped on the Street, What Should I Say?

As a general matter, disagreements between the people and the police are never won on the streets.  If you have been wrongly treated by the police, you can address it at a later time and place—often with the assistance of a lawyer, a government or community organization, and the courts. Until then, no one should get hurt or in trouble during a "stop.”  

For both our citizens and the police:

Stay safe on the streets.  Contest in the courts.  

What To Do

  • Remain polite and respectful. You have much to gain by staying calm and compliant, and much to lose by arguing and being combative. 
  • If you have trouble hearing or understanding the officer’s instructions, explain this calmly and politely. Explain that you want to obey the directions but are not sure what to do.
  • Allow the officer to speak. Do not interrupt.
  • Be respectful towards the officer. Do not shout or use profanity. Do not “bad mouth” or curse the officer.
  • Even though the officer’s name may be on his/her badge, it is better to use the respectful terms of “officer”, “sir” or “ma’am”. 
  • Remain calm and avoid arguing. If you are uncooperative and refuse to answer reasonable questions, the encounter will probably last longer than necessary. 
  • If you have an object that might be mistaken for a weapon, immediately advise the officer.
  • If you are legally in possession of a gun or other weapon, immediately advise the officer of this fact.

What To Avoid

  • Never joke about having a weapon with you.
  • Do not use words or actions that might encourage others to threaten or confront the officer.

Good To Know

  • An officer may or may not explain the reason that you have been stopped.
  • Remember, everything you say to an officer is important. So is how you say it. 
  • What you say could be used against you in court. 
  • You have the right not to speak to the police. To exercise this right, you only have to explain to the police, “I would like to remain silent.”
  • You may also decide to answer some questions, and then choose to remain silent.
  • It is better to tell the officer that you are exercising your right to remain silent than to lie. You could face charges for making false statements. 
  • You do not have to agree (consent) to a search of your body or possessions. Simply explain, in a polite way, "I do not consent." (This may delay the stop and may not prevent the search, but it will help protect your rights)
  • At any point, you may ask whether you are free to go. You should do so politely and respectfully. 

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.