At the Law Offices of Dennis W. Stanford of Clarksville, Tennessee, we know that dealing with the police can be scary. Whether or not you've committed a crime, talking to officers is often incredibly intimidating. Before interacting with the police, it's important that you know your rights. The following guide demonstrates what to do if the police want to speak with you.
We're all familiar—through television and movies—with our basic constitutional rights. You have the right to remain silent, the right to have an attorney present during questioning, and if you waive these rights, anything you say can and will be used against you. While everyone seems to know these basic rights, no one seems to exercise them!
All too often, our clients say they feel like they had to tell their side of the story. Maybe they didn't want to lie, or the officer didn't read them their rights. For one reason or another, people often feel compelled to talk to the police. But you don't have to.
If an officer asks to speak with you, exercise your right to remain silent. There is no easier way to avoid lying than to say nothing. Many of our clients, in an attempt to explain themselves to officers, have given the police the exact evidence used against them. We don't want this to happen to you.
While we don't recommend being forthcoming with officers, we do advise you to be courteous. Stay calm and follow their instructions. If you feel like the police are doing something wrong, make a mental note of it and—without being argumentative—mention that you feel their actions are unnecessary while still doing as instructed. Your attorney may be able to use this error to your advantage when defending you, but it is of little use to resist arrest.
Being combative, belligerent, or argumentative will seldom help in any situation involving the police. It's simply a bad idea. Do not physically struggle or try to run.
It is possible to "cooperate" without providing a statement. If you feel compelled to explain what happened, avoid admitting anything you said or did, if possible. This should help you avoid inadvertently admitting to a crime. Your attorney can tell your story later.
If you're pulled over or approached by a police officer, you have a right to know why. Politely ask the police why they wish to speak to you. If you're pulled over, produce your license, registration, and insurance information (if asked to do so). Provide your name without complaint.
At this point, you can and should ask why the police want to talk to you. You could say: "may I ask why you stopped me?" If the officer cannot tell you why, take that as a strong indicator that you shouldn't say anything. You could reply to questions with: "Officer, I'm not comfortable answering any questions or speaking to you until I know what this is about. I may want to have my attorney present." If the questioning persists, you have every right to say: "I don't have anything to say about that."
If you are approached by an officer and asked to speak for no apparent reason, you may refuse. In the event that the police ask you to stay, ask if they are arresting or detaining you. If not, you are free to leave. If they do detain you, cooperate and follow their instructions. Indicate clearly that you're staying only because the officer is forcing you to. Let your attorney handle the situation and these circumstances.