August 9, 2015, marked the anniversary of Mike Brown’s death in Ferguson, MO, and the city was once again in a state of emergency following protests. Police made a number of arrests, alleging that the once-peaceful protest had turned violent. Shootings also occurred around the St. Louis area, yet the vast majority of those who turned out attended candlelight vigils for Brown and used peaceful protest tactics.
But Brown’s death isn’t the only one that has sparked national outcry this past year. From Eric Garner and Freddie Gray, both of whom died at the hands of police, to the mysterious prison deaths of activists Sandra Bland and Rexdale Henry. As a result, many people are unsure where they stand when interacting with police officers, and many don’t know that they have legal rights if they are approached by law enforcement or arrested.
If you don’t know your rights with police, or if you have concerns about potential police misconduct, then make sure you’re aware of the following legal rights that all citizens have with police, according to the American Civil Liberties Union:
- You do have the right to remain silent. You can exercise your right to remain silent, and you should let officers know that you plan to do so.
- If you aren’t under arrest, you have the right to calmly ask if you are free to go. Even though officers may try to agitate you, make sure to stay calm and polite during the interaction. You should never obstruct the police or interfere with an investigation, especially if you are a bystander.
- You do not have to consent to any searches without a warrant. This includes on your person or in your home or car.
- Even if you are an immigrant, regardless of legal status, you have legal rights. You may ask for an attorney if you are detained whether you are a citizen or not.
In addition to working with organizations like the ACLU, you may want to find an attorney should you ever have a negative encounter with officers. Whether you are wrongly accused of a crime or have been a victim of prisoner abuse, make sure you seek legal advice. All situations are different, so make sure you consult an attorney if you have questions.