How To Handle Police Encounters

If law enforcement officers contact you and you have not yet retained an attorney, be advised that you have a constitutional right to remain silent as guaranteed by the fifth amendment of the U.S. Constitution. You cannot be penalized for exercising this right or any other rights provided by law.  Even a short, seemingly harmless conversation with police may prove very harmful to you later.  Before answering ANY questions, contact an attorney immediately and discuss your case with a professional before disclosing any information that can and will be used against you in a court of law.  Remember that while police officers are expected to serve and protect you, know that it is also their job to investigate and often arrest you if they believe you have committed a crime, so protect yourself by retaining a criminal defense attorney immediately.

Remember that if police are asking you questions, it is most likely because they do not yet have enough evidence to justify an arrest and are questioning you to help build a case against you.  Be smart, and keep your mouth shut.  Politely advise the officer that you prefer not to answer ANY questions without an attorney, and that you choose to exercise your right to remain silent.  The time to talk and explain your side of the story is after you retain counsel and have the luxury of engaging in a private conversation with your attorney, outside the presence of law enforcement.  If the facts are on your side, your skilled attorney will use those facts in the most effective way possible to help keep you from suffering a possible conviction.  Even if you cannot afford an attorney, know that the court is required by law to appoint one to you through the Office of the Public Defender in the county where you are arrested and charged.

If police officers come to your door and ask you if they may enter and speak to you, know that you have the right to refuse them access as guaranteed by the 4th Amendment, which protects against warrantless search and seizure.  Simply advise the officer that you do not consent to searches and politely close your door, or you may speak through the door without even opening it.   If an officer comes to your door with a search warrant, that means he has obtained prior permission from a judge to search your home or property based on evidence presented to that judge who signed the search warrant.   In that case the officer is within his right to enter the home without your consent, and know that you will not be asked for consent, the officer will just enter and hand you the warrant.   Often times if you do not open the door for an officer with a warrant, they will force entry into the home causing unnecessary damage to doors or windows, so it is advisable to permit their entry if the warrant is valid.   Look at the warrant and make sure the address and name on the document are correct, as there have been many instances when officers enter the wrong home by mistake, and find contraband resulting in an arrest.  Courts have routinely upheld convictions against defendants even when officers mistakenly enter the wrong home so it is always a good idea to double check the address and name on the document.

The constitution and bill of rights exist in part to protect individuals from the state.  It is important to not only learn your rights, but to exercise those rights when necessary.  Knowledge is power, so educate yourself so that you are confident when dealing with police, understanding that the law is on your side.  

Note: The above information does not constitute a legal consultation and no attorney client relationship exists by virtue of reading any of the information on this site.  The information on this site is solely provided to help explain some of your basic constitutional rights and nothing more.  Every client and each case is unique, so call for a free consultation to discuss your case further.