Your Rights & the Police

If you are stopped by the police…

  • You must show identification if you are stopped while driving or if you are in a place that sells alcoholic beverages. At any other time, you cannot be legally arrested for failing to present identification to a police officer. However, you may be asked to state your name, age, and address.
  • Remember, if you are a Lawful Permanent Resident or Resident Alien, you must have your alien registration card with you at all times.
  • If stopped while driving, you must show the officer your driver license, vehicle registration, and proof of auto insurance, but you do not have to answer any questions without a lawyer present.
  • If you are stopped, you can ask if you are being detained. If not, you are free to go. (However, you should never run from a police officer. It is better to be safe, and to contest the illegal stop later.)
  • Do not try to physically resist the police if they try to detain you.
  • The police may search your body without your consent for firearms or other dangerous weapons. You should make clear that you do not consent to a full search of your person. (Again, if they ignore you, do not try to resist them physically.)
  • Police may search your car, even without a search warrant, if they have “probable cause” to think the car or driver is involved in a crime.
  • Generally, police may not search your home without a search warrant. If the police tell you they have a search warrant, ask to see it. Make it clear that you do not consent to a search without a warrant.
  • If the police take things from you while searching your home or car, they must give you a receipt for whatever they take.
  • If you get a ticket, promptly follow the instructions for payment or appeal the ticket. If you fail to answer the ticket within the time allowed, you might be arrested.
  • If the police suspect that you are driving while intoxicated (or under the influence of a controlled substance) and you refuse a breathalyser test, your driver license may be immediately suspended.
  • If you are detained by the police, do not explain yourself to the police, or make excuses. If you do, these explanations may be used against you in court!
  • After you are detained by the police, immediately ask to speak to an attorney and tell the police you will not answer any questions unless your attorney is present.
  • If you are being held for a crime that might cause you to be imprisoned, you have the right to a court-appointed lawyer.