What To Do (And What Not To Do) in an Encounter With The PolicePhoto by Bill Oxford

Originally Posted On: https://www.athens-lawfirm.com/what-to-do


Expert advice from award winning Georgia criminal defense attorney, Kim T. Stephens for staying safe, protecting your rights, and avoiding arrest.

Criminal defense lawyers often hear the following questions from concerned citizens: “What should I do if I get stopped by the police?” “Should I talk to the police?” “The police are accusing me of something I didn’t do, do I have to talk to them?” Remember, police may stop and briefly detain you ONLY if there is reasonable suspicion that you committed, are committing, or are about to commit a crime. What YOU do if you are stopped in a car, on foot, or in your home will determine what happens next. So, what should you do if you have contact with law enforcement?

Do Not Talk To The Police Without A Lawyer Present

State laws often require you to provide your name to the police if asked and to provide your driver’s license if stopped in a car. You are NOT required to and, in most circumstances, should not give ANY OTHER information. Remember that everything you say can be used against you in charging and prosecuting you for a crime.  You have a right to remain silent, not to speak.  Simply tell the police politely, “I would like to remain silent unless I have a lawyer with me.”  Then, do not talk to them unless you have a lawyer present to represent you. Even if you are innocent of any wrongdoing, you may unintentionally say something which incriminates you or hurts your defense. Many people are arrested and prosecuted every day for crimes that they have not committed.

Do Not Consent To A Search Without A Warrant

You never have to consent to a search of your car, your home, your bags, your belongings, or your person. If you do consent to a search, you waive many arguments you may be able to use later to say that the search was unconstitutional. If the police say they have a search warrant, ask to see it. If they don’t have a warrant, say politely, “I do not consent to this search,” and ask, “Am I free to leave or are you detaining me?”  Law enforcement officers cannot arrest you simply for refusing to consent to a search. The search may still happen but refusing to consent to the search will protect your rights later if you go to court. Remember, even if you are certain you have nothing illegal to hide, you should not consent to a search without a warrant. Someone may have left something incriminating in your home, car, or bag, and even something as simple as a prescription medication not contained in a bottle, or medication without an accompanying prescription, can result in arrest in many states.

Do Follow These Simple Steps If You Are Stopped By Police

If you are in your vehicle, roll down your front windows, if possible. Keep your hands visible on the wheel, and wait for the officer to come to one of the windows. Do not get out of your car and approach the officer. Upon request, show the police your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance. In all circumstances, be courteous and professional during an encounter with law enforcement. Keep your hands visible at all times and out of your pockets. Don’t bad mouth or curse at the police or call them names. Don’t physically touch an officer. Do not make sudden movements. Stand and remain where they tell you to. Do not interfere with, try to run or walk away from, or obstruct the police – you can be arrested for doing so.

Do Not Take Field Sobriety Tests If Stopped For DUI

If the police suspect that you have been drinking, they will begin a DUI investigation and will ask you to do Field Sobriety Tests. All field sobriety tests are voluntary and optional in Georgia. You can refuse to take Field Sobriety Tests, and your refusal cannot be used against you in court. Most field sobriety tests are difficult to perform sober and never reflect well on the individual stopped. NOTE: Field Sobriety Tests are different from breath and blood alcohol tests. The police will also ask you to take a breath, blood or urine test to determine your blood alcohol level or if drugs are in your system. You can refuse to take the breath, blood or urine test. Refusal, however, can result in driver’s license suspension and may be admissible against you at trial. If you are arrested following the traffic stop, your car will be searched.

Do Ask For A Lawyer

If you are arrested, ask for a lawyer immediately. Remember and record officers’ badge numbers, patrol car numbers, and physical descriptions, if possible. Write down everything you remember as soon as possible. Try to find witness names, addresses, and phone numbers. If you are injured during an encounter with police, seek medical treatment and take photographs of the injuries as soon as possible. Obtain copies of your medical records after your treatment and provide them to your lawyer.

Article written by:

The Law Office of Kim Stephens
1143 Prince Ave
Athens, GA 30606
(706) 548-3933