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Understanding your rights if stopped by the police

Seeing the lights of a police car behind you is always unsettling. Whether you did something wrong or not, you may be wondering what rights you have. 

Handling encounters with the police in a respectful manner helps avoid things from turning bad quickly. However, if you handle things in a certain way, you may prevent self-incrimination. 

Rights if stopped by the police

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, one of the things many people do not understand is that it is not a requirement to answer all of the officer’s questions. In certain states, you need to state your name if asked, but you do not have to answer questions regarding your whereabouts, your reason for driving, where you live or if you are a U.S. citizen. 

If asked if they can search your vehicle or belongings, you have a right to say no, although if they suspect you have a weapon, they can pat your clothing. 

Rights in the event of an arrest

If you are under arrest, FindLaw discusses that it is important the officer reads you the Miranda Rights and that if he or she does not, the judge may throw out anything divulged about the case while in police custody. 

Your right to remain silent continues after arrest, and it is best not to say anything about the case, even if you know you are innocent. You have a right to attorney’s counsel, and this lawyer should be with you during all questioning by officers. Even if you cannot afford a lawyer, the court must assign you one at no charge to you or your family. 

There must be an official criminal charge within 48 hours, or else you should be able to leave. You also have the right to receive water and food and to be free of police brutality, no matter what the charges are.