It happens to many of us at one point or another in our lifetime. We get pulled over by law enforcement for something, whether it’s speeding, a license plate issue or something more serious. It’s important to know your civic rights in the event of getting pulled over.

Retired Justice of the Peace Greg Mohr said, “It’s good to know your civic rights.”

According to the American Civil Liberties Union [ACLU], if you’re stopped by police you have the right to remain silent. Some states might require you to tell the officer you are choosing to remain silent. If you are stopped while on foot, stay calm and don’t run, resist, argue or obstruct the police officer.

If you’re stopped by police in your vehicle, stop in a safe place as soon as you can. Turn of your car and turn on an internal light if it’s dark. It’s recommended that you open the window partway and keep your hands on the wheel.

The ACLU website states, “If an officer or immigration agent asks to search your car, you can refuse. But if police believe your car contains evidence of a crime, they can search it without your consent. Both drivers and passengers have the right to remain silent. If you’re a passenger, you can also ask if you’re free to leave. If yes, silently leave.”

If you are arrested by police, it’s important to not resist arrest. Tell the police that you wish to remain silent and ask for a lawyer. If you can’t afford a lawyer, the government is required to provide one for you. 

“Don’t say anything, sign anything, or make any decisions without a lawyer. You have the right to make a local phone call. The police cannot listen if you call a lawyer,” the ACLU website reports. 

Mohr noted, “The only thing you have to answer is who you are and provide the officer with your drivers license and insurance. Officers can only ask to search your vehicle if they have reasonable suspicion or probable cause.”

If you’re asked about your immigration status, you’re not required to answer questions about where you were born, whether you’re a U.S. citizen or how you entered the country. If you’re not a U.S. citizen and have valid immigration papers, you should show them if an immigration agent asks for it. 

If you feel your rights have been violated you should write down everything that you can remember, including the officer’s badge and patrol car numbers, what agency the officers were from and any other details you can remember. It’s also important to get contact information for witnesses.


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