What Are Your Rights When Stopped by a Police Officer?

We hear it all the time: “I was polite and cooperative with the police officer, and he arrested me anyways.” So what does it mean to be polite and cooperative? Just that. But here’s what it’s not:

  • It’s not answering questions
  • It’s not consenting to a search of your property
  • It’s not consenting to a breathalyzer test
  • It’s not consenting to field sobriety tests

You can be polite to a law enforcement officer without giving away your rights. If you don’t protect those rights, you risk providing information to a cop that can be used to 1) charge you with a crime and 2) successfully prosecute you. The less information law enforcement is able to gather, the better. Make them go through the legwork to gather the information they need, don’t just give it up to them. Too many people think that if they just answer questions and do everything the cop asks, then things will be better and they might not get charged. But in reality, here’s what often happens: you get charged anyways, the cop has a lot of information that you’ve provided to put into the police report, the police report is give to the District Attorney, and then the DA uses that information in court to prosecute and potentially convict you. By not consenting to searches, questions, or tests, you are circumventing part of that process. And guess what? You can still be polite while doing that. The worst that a cop can say in court if you do this correctly is that you were polite but would not consent. That’s you protecting your rights and making sure law enforcement has to work to make their case.

This video illustrates what to do:

Don’t just give up your rights when stopped by an officer or contacted by a detective. Be knowledgeable and educated about what your rights are and how to protect them. If you believe your rights were violated, contact a Raleigh criminal lawyer for help.

Damon Chetson

Damon Chetson is a Board Certified Specialist in State and Federal Criminal Law. He represents people charged with serious and minor offenses in Raleigh, Wake County, and the Eastern District of North Carolina. Call (919) 352-9411.