Know your rights: what to do and what not to do when you’re pulled over
By Davy V.
Contributing writer for End the Lie
As a Filmmaker, the majority of my work has centered around exposing police brutality and misconduct, including the harassment of supporters of victims of illegitimate police actions, as reported here at End the Lie by Madison Ruppert.
I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have been approached or contacted by people who know my work, and they go into these very disturbing stories of being harassed or in some cases, even physically assaulted by the police.
Every time, when they finish recounting their experiences, I always ask the same question, “Ok, what did you do about it?” And every time, I get pretty much the same answer, “Well, nothing.”
Or sometimes, there may be a slight variation to the answer I get, such as, “I didn’t know what to do,” or “I felt like since they’re cops, they would automatically take their side and nothing would be done, or even worse, the cops who abused or mistreated me would retaliate against me, for filing a report against them.”
It is very sad, but true. There is an overwhelming percentage of people who either don’t know what to do if they have been a victim of police brutality or misconduct, or they simply are too afraid to do anything!
The result is that countless police brutality and misconduct incidents go unreported, giving these rogue cops, the same ones who took an oath to “Serve and Protect,” a “free pass” to continue abusing innocent people!
I want to share with you something very important which everyone should know: your rights, and what to do if you are stopped by the police, and what to do if you become a victim of police brutality or misconduct.
Editor’s note: This is not to be misconstrued as legal advice. These are just guidelines which everyday people can follow in order to protect themselves. We are not lawyers and we are not qualified to give you legal advice or a professional legal opinion. If you think you need one, do not hesitate to call a lawyer immediately. If you are arrested, ask to see your lawyer and do not say anything until your lawyer is present. Again, this is not legal advice, it is just common sense!
If you are stopped by the police:
- You have the right to remain silent. If you wish to exercise that right, say so out loud.
- You have the right to refuse to consent to a search of yourself, your car or your home.
- If you are not under arrest, you have the right to calmly leave.
- You have the right to a lawyer if you are arrested. Ask for one immediately.
- Regardless of your immigration or citizenship status, you have Constitutional rights. Use them.
- Do stay calm, and be as polite and respectful as possible.
- Do not interfere with or obstruct the police in any way (this could get you arrested or result in jail time).
- Do not lie or give false documents.
- Do prepare yourself and your family in case you are arrested.
- Do remember the details of the encounter, the more the better.
- Do file a written complaint or call your local ACLU if you feel your rights have been violated. You can also ask to speak to the officer’s on-duty supervisor.
IF YOU ARE STOPPED FOR QUESTIONING:
- Stay calm.
- Ask if you are free to leave. If the officer says yes, calmly and silently walk away. If you are under arrest, you have a right to know why. You have the right to remain silent and cannot be punished for refusing to answer questions.
- If you wish to remain silent, tell the officer out loud. In some states, you must give your name if asked to identify yourself. Be sure to check your state and county laws in order to find out what you can and cannot do in that regard.
- You do not have to consent to a search of yourself or your belongings, but police may “pat down” your clothing if they suspect a weapon. You should not physically resist or respond in a hostile manner, but you have the right to refuse consent for any further search. If you do consent, it can affect you later in court.
IF YOU ARE STOPPED IN YOUR CAR:
- Turn off the car, turn on the internal light, open just far enough to speak with the officer and place your hands on the steering wheel in clear view.
- Stop the car in a safe place as quickly as possible.
- Upon request, show police your driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance. If you have to reach into your glove box and the officer is clearly either agitated or suspicious, declare what you are going to do before you do it in order to make them more comfortable and make it clear you are not reaching for a weapon.
- If an officer or immigration agent asks to look inside your car, you can refuse to consent to the search. However, if the police believe that your car has evidence of a crime inside of it, your vehicle can (and likely will) be searched without your consent.
- Both drivers and passengers have the right to remain silent. Do not be intimidated by typical police tactics such as saying, “If you have nothing to hide, why won’t you talk with us?” or “Not talking makes you look guilty.”
MAKE SURE YOU WRITE DOWN THE FOLLOWING:
- Time and place of traffic stop
- The officer’s name and/or badge number
- The officer’s car number
- The events that transpired, again you will not regret including as many details as possible as this could very well save you in court.
Editor’s note: Above all, if you are not hostile and antagonistic towards officers, chances are they will treat you with respect. Unfortunately, that is obviously not the case with all officers, or else we wouldn’t constantly be covering incidents of police brutality and misconduct. However, you can’t hurt yourself by treating an officer with respect while very little good can come from treating an officer poorly when you are pulled over, questioned, or arrested.
Edited by Madison Ruppert with minor additions
Davy V. is Cuban-American award winning filmmaker, video producer, writer and photographer. Most of his work centers on exposing police brutality and misconduct in his hometown of Rochester, NY. Davy V. won the U.S. ACM Video Festival Award for R.P.D. EXPOSED!, his gritty documentary exposing the Rochester, NY Police Department and their long history of abusing and murdering unarmed innocent citizens. Davy V. followed R.P.D. EXPOSED! up with, R.P.D.: Badges of DISHONOR, CORRUPTION and MURDER! Davy V.’s work has been featured in THE SOURCE Hip Hop Magazine, Urban America Magazine, The Ave. Magazine, Insider Magazine, La Voz Newspaper, Minority Reporter Newspaper, DownLow Magazine, and more. Davy V. CEO of KEEP IT ON THE REEL Productions, a film and video production company in Rochester, NY.