At best, police stops are stressful events full of uncertainty and worry. At worst, these stops become violent altercations with deadly consequences. Understanding one’s rights can go a long way toward protecting oneself in these situations — especially regarding criminal charges.
The basics of American rights go a long way toward protecting its citizens. Floridians must learn what they should — and should not — do when stopped by police.
Basic individual rights
People can reference the below list to advise them in dealings with police:
- Right to remain silent: Every person in America has a right to remain silent. No law compels individuals to answer police questions, regardless of what they tell you. Florida law does require people to produce identification, if possible, but not to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
- Keep calm: Police officers may attempt to escalate the situation with threats to antagonize people into rescinding their rights. Keep calm, do not lie, do not obstruct police activity, and do not argue.
- Ask to leave: Eventually, the police must decide to let the stopped individual go or arrest them. Asking to leave may force the officers into a faster decision.
- Do not resist: If the police decide to make an arrest, do not resist. Remain calm and ask for a lawyer until granted one. Do not sign anything or say anything else without consulting a lawyer. Arrested individuals may also request one unmonitored phone call. Remember, an arrest is not a charge or a conviction, though it is common to spend a night in jail.
- Write down every detail: Write down any names, dates, badge numbers, vehicle numbers, and other important details. Sometimes the only thing keeping someone from a baseless charge is a tiny detail.
Find legal representation
Federal law requires police departments to provide all arrested individuals the services of a public defense attorney. Otherwise, people can locate the services of a local attorney familiar with Florida criminal defense. A lawyer can answer the police’s questions, advise their client on next steps, and work to limit the damage from a police stop gone wrong.