An encounter with law enforcement can be frightening. You may not know what’s happening or why you’re being approached.

Too many New Yorkers forfeit their rights when law enforcement asks, which leads to issues later. It’s important to remember you can be helpful and cooperative without giving up rights that may help your case. When law enforcement approaches you, remember your rights.

Keeping your rights while cooperating

It’s important to remember there are rights in place to protect you through any encounter with law enforcement. Do not waive them in hopes of getting through an encounter quickly.

Throughout an encounter, you have a series of rights.

When approached by law enforcement

When police or other law enforcement approach you, remember:

  • You have the right to remain silent. Simply tell the officers politely “I would like to remain silent.” You don’t need to answer any questions afterward until you have an attorney present.
  • Don’t consent to a search of your property. If the police ask to look over your apartment, your car or even yourself, ask them to stop. Simply tell them you do not consent to a search.
  • Seek clarity. Politely ask law enforcement if you are being detained, or if you are free to leave. If you are under arrest, do not resist.

Remember that by doing these things, you aren’t being difficult. You are merely protecting your rights.

When under arrest

If the police take you into custody, protections are still in place. These are a few things to keep in mind:

  • You get access to a lawyer. Even if you cannot afford one, you’ll have access to law council. It’s important to talk to a lawyer before discussing anything with law enforcement.
  • Your name and home address are all you need to tell the police. Anything else can be used against you later, so ask for representation and nothing more. If officials ask you to sign something, don’t do it. They cannot punish you for refusing to sign.
  • Do not lie or argue with law enforcement. Do not admit guilt.

Even while detained, you have rights. By protecting these rights, you give yourself a stronger defense. It’s important to cooperate with law enforcement without giving up rights.

Seeking council

It can be an intimidating experience to be singled out by law enforcement. If you are arrested and accused of a crime, it’s important to get a lawyer. Protecting your rights and finding knowledgeable representation go a long way.