May 18, 2009
Over the years my clients have consistently asked questions regarding their rights when encountering a police officer. I would like to take this opportunity to provide you with answers to those questions.
1. Do I have to answer questions asked by law enforcement officers?
Answer: No, you have the constitutional right to remain silent and your silence cannot be held against you in a Court of law. The only thing you have to answer to a police officer is name and you have to provide identification if asked. Aside from that you do not have to answer any questions a police officer asks and you do have a right to have an attorney present before answering any questions. If you choose to answer questions, any statements that you make can be used against you in a Court of law.
2. What should I do if law enforcement officers arrest me?
Answer: If you are arrested and the police officers begin asking you questions they must first advise you of your constitutional right to remain silent, to an attorney and to have an appointed attorney if you cannot afford an attorney. If you waive your rights, anything that you say can be used against you in a Court of law, however, you do not need to waive your rights and you do not have to answer any questions by a police officer while you are in their custody.
3. Can law enforcement officers search my home or office?
Answer: Law enforcement officers can search your home only if they have a search warrant or your consent. In your absence they can get consent from a roommate or a guest who they reasonably believe has the authority to consent. Law enforcement officers can search your office only if they have a warrant or the consent of your employer.
4. What should I do if law enforcement officers come to my house?
Answer: If police officers knock on your door do not open the door. Ask through the door if they have a warrant. If they do not have a warrant, do not let them in your home. If they do have a warrant, tell them to slide it under the door or hold it up to the peephole, if they do have a warrant you do have to let them in. Make sure that the warrant contains information regarding your correct address, the reason why they are searching your house and what they are searching for. Even though a police officer has a search warrant you still do not have to answer the questions.
5. What if law enforcement officers do not have a search warrant but insist on searching your house?
Answer: Do not interfere with the police for they may arrest you for resisting arrest or obstructing official business. Instead, make it clear to them that you are not consenting to them searching your home and allow them to search anyway. Then contact me as soon as possible.
6. There are six (6) exceptions to the warrant requirement:
7. What should I do if I am stopped in my vehicle and the police officer believes I have been drinking?
Answer: If a police officer wants you to perform a sobriety test, for example walk and turn, one-legged stand or gaze nystagmus, you may refuse. If the police officer arrests you, transports you to the police station and asks you to take a breathalyzer you may also refuse, however, your license will automatically be suspended. Any statements you make can be used against you.
It is very important that you, your family members and friends understand your rights when encountering police officers. Please discuss them with your family and friends, and if you have and questions please feel free to contact my office.
Jeremy W. Levy
Attorney at Law