What Are My Rights Part 1
Many people do not know precisely what their rights are when it comes to encounters with law enforcement. What should you do if you are approached on the street? What if it’s in your car? What happens if you are arrested? In this first article we will discuss the first scenario, being approached on the street, and what you are required to do, and what law enforcement officers are allowed to do.
If you are stopped on the street you do not have to answer any questions. You can simply say, I do not want to talk to you, and can walk away. If you do not feel comfortable saying this, ask if you can leave. If the officers say that you cannot, but that you are not under arrest, this means that you are being detained. An officer can pat down the outside of your clothing only if he has reasonable suspicion that you are armed and dangerous. If the officer tries searching any more than this, state clearly that you do not consent to the search, but under no circumstances should you resist an officer or try to flee. Once you have been detained they may ask for your name. In some states refusing to give your name is an offense you can be arrested for.
Knowing your rights is important so that you do not divulge more information than you are required or allow law enforcement officers to overstep their bounds. In the third article in this series we will discuss what to do if you are placed under arrest and we will then discuss the Miranda warning, and the case from which it came, the 1966 case of Miranda vs. Arizona. Then the reason for exercising the constitutional rights that protect you from saying more than you must will become clear.