4 Tips For Staying Out Of Legal Trouble When Encountering Law Enforcement
It is best to arm yourself with information on how to stay out of trouble before you get into trouble. If you are ever stopped and questioned by the police, you need to know how to interact with them and what your rights are during this interaction.
#1 Identify Yourself
When a police officer approaches you, it is important to identify yourself correctly. Tell your officer your legal name, not your nickname or an abbreviation of your name. Give the officer the legal name that appears on either your birth certificate or driver's license.
It seems simple, but telling the officer your name is A.J. when your name is Andrew Johnson could result in being charged with giving the police officer false information.
You can also give the officer your home address, birth date, and telephone number.
#2 Do Not Lie
When the officer asks you questions, it is important that you don't lie. If you don't want to answer a question or further your interaction with the police officer, maintain your right to remain silent. It is far better to remain silent than it is to lie or mislead the officer in any way in regards to their questions.
Lying to an officer can result in charges of giving false information, resisting or obstructing an officer, or even accessory after the fact. Lying makes you look guilty in court and can compromise your defense.
#3 Do Not Answer Questions
If you are stopped and questioned because you fit a profile or a suspect, or the office asks leading questions that imply you committed a crime, you don't have to say anything. You have a right to remain silent even if you have not been read your Miranda rights. It is best to specially state, "I am choosing my right to remain silent," than it is to just sit there and stare at the officer without saying anything.
You also need to state that you want to speak to a lawyer. You need to make this request very clear so there is no confusion about your desire to speak to one.
Technically, if you are free to leave while talking to the officer, they don't have to read you your Miranda rights. Ask if you are free to leave, and if the officer says yes, then leave. If the officer says no, then they need to read you your rights.
#4 Don't Give the Officer Permission to Search Your Property
Another constitution right you have is the right to not be unreasonably searched. An officer cannot search your property, be it your backpack, car, or home, without a warrant or probable cause.
If the officer asks for permission to search, that means they generally do not have probable cause that will stand up in court or have a warrant. Deny the office the right to search your property without a warrant.
When speaking with a police officer, always provide your full legal name and contact information. From there, you don't have to answer any questions you don't want to; you can always reaffirm your right to an attorney and to remain silent. If you need an attorney, click here to reach out to a criminal law attorney to help you if you are arrested or if the police persist in questioning and stopping you over time.