Four Things Not to Do If You Are Stopped or Arrested
You’re not going to be happy if a police officer decides to pull you over, stop you, or arrest you. If you feel like you’ve done nothing wrong or that the officer is treating you unfairly or unjustly, you’ll likely be frustrated and angry as well. On top of intense emotions, your confusion or lack of understanding about your constitutional rights can also lead to poor decisions, as can an understandable and sincere desire to be helpful or explain why the officer is mistaken.
But if you let your emotions guide your words or actions in the moments before, during, and after an arrest, if you don’t know what you should or shouldn’t do when interacting with the police, you could make mistakes that will make your bad situation even worse.
No matter how upset or scared you may be when those flashing lights appear in your rearview mirror, or when an officer is asking you questions or searching you, or arresting you, avoid making these four common missteps which could increase your legal peril:
Don’t Fight Back
We see incidents of police misconduct or overreach on the news almost every day. While the overwhelming majority of police officers in Johnson County and throughout the Kansas City area do their jobs honorably and properly, some can and do engage in abuses of authority like racial profiling, harassment, or unreasonable use of force.
When you are on the receiving end of such conduct, as wrong and outrageous as it may be, resisting, being abusive or threatening to the officer, or physically fighting back at that moment will not help you in the long run. There will be a time to fight back and there will be a time to seek justice for the wrongs perpetrated on you.
Your criminal defense lawyer may be able to use any police misconduct as part of your defense to get evidence thrown out or the charges dismissed. You may also have legal claims for money damages for these violations of your civil rights. While you should never hesitate to respectfully exercise your constitutional rights as discussed below, reacting with hostility or violence during your interaction with an abusive officer could weaken your defenses and claims when the time comes to vindicate yourself.
Don’t Try to Talk Your Way Out of It
You’ve watched enough TV shows and movies to know that you have the right to remain silent when police arrest you and that anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. In the heat of the moment, when adrenaline is pumping and you desperately want to explain to the officer why he or she is wrong and that it is all a big misunderstanding, it can be easy to forget these rights.
Don’t. The more you say, the more chances you have to say something that will implicate you or hurt your defense. There will be a time to tell your story, just not then. You should never speak to the police about what happened before consulting with a criminal defense attorney.
Never Agree to a Search of Your Vehicle
After pulling you over, the officer may ask whether he or she can search your car. They ask for your permission for a reason. Police can only search your car under very limited circumstances, and if they do so improperly, any evidence they find will likely be inadmissible in court. But if you say it’s okay, even if the police had no other legal basis for conducting the search, anything they find in your car can and will be used to convict you. By consenting to a search, you are handing prosecutors a huge gift.
If an officer asks you whether he or she can search your vehicle, or even if an officer demands that you agree to a search or threatens you if you don’t, stand your constitutional ground and respectfully and politely tell them that you do not consent to a search.
Don’t Try to Represent Yourself Instead of Hiring an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney
A criminal courtroom is a terrible place to try your hand at being an amateur lawyer. You may know what happened when you were arrested, you may know the story you want to tell, but you do not know the complicated procedural and evidentiary rules that govern criminal cases. Prosecutors do, and they will use their knowledge and authority to steamroll you. If you try to save a few dollars by representing yourself, you could be costing yourself a lot more when you find yourself a convicted criminal.
If you are facing criminal charges, don’t take chances with your future. Hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney gives you the best chance of a positive outcome that will allow you to put this ordeal behind you so you can move forward with your life.