Your Rights When Talking to Police about a Criminal Matter
We know that talking to law enforcement officers can be intimidating even at the best of times. If you think they suspect that you have committed a crime, that feeling may be amplified enormously. Recent stories of police shooting citizens (including citizens who were acting within their constitutional rights) probably don’t help with any uncomfortable feelings you may have regarding confrontations with police, either.
The best way to have a peaceful interaction with police officers (and possibly avoid arrest) is to know your rights and communicate them calmly. Luckily, legislators in Illinois are working to help young people do just that.
Recently, a law was passed that requires all driving schools to include information on your rights when being pulled over. Now, obviously this doesn’t cover all situations, but it’s definitely a good start. Perhaps just as valuable, the information also helps young drivers understand what police officers are looking for or expect at a traffic stop (no sudden movements, communication about the presence of weapons, and so on).
Whether you have been pulled over, are talking to police, or have been arrested, you still have constitutional rights. Below we’re going to go over these rights, because knowing and exercising them could save you from an arrest or extra charges.
Your Rights When Talking to Police
No Matter What – In every step of criminal proceedings, you have the right to remain silent. This means that you can refuse to answer questions whether you are approached on the street or are sitting with officers in an interrogation room.
You also have the right to refuse a search of your person, your belongings, your car, and so on. If an officer believes that you have a weapon on you, you may be patted down, but you can refuse other searches. (If police have reasonable suspicions that your belongings are involved in or part of a crime, however, they may search, or even confiscate, those belongings.) If you are not arrested for a crime, you have the right to ask the police officer if you can leave, and then calmly exit the area.
Know that these rights apply to everyone – regardless of your immigration or citizenship status.
If You Have Been Pulled Over – While you can refuse to answer any questions, you are required to show police officers your license, registration, and insurance information. And again, while you may refuse to have your car or belongings searched, if police have reasonable suspicion that your car is part of a crime, you will have to let them search your car. Related to this, remember that police also have the right to seize any property that is suspected to be part of a crime.
If Police Come To Your Home – You home cannot be searched without a warrant. Period. If the police come to your home and demand a search, you may ask to see the warrant first. You don’t even have to open the door – police can slip the warrant under your door. At this point you will have to let them in to search, but you can still remain silent and refuse questioning.
If You Have Been Arrested – If you are put under arrest, you may ask the officer why you have been put under arrest – you have the right to know. You also have the right to speak to your lawyer (in private, without the police overhearing your conversation) if you have been arrested.
If you believe you have been unlawfully arrested, you should speak to your lawyer before making any attempts to resist arrest. Resisting a lawful arrest is a crime, and can add additional charges to your case.
If You Have Been Arrested for DUI – Even though you have the right to refuse a search, once you have been arrested on suspicion of DUI, you cannot refuse to take a chemical test (blood, urine, breath). This is due to Illinois’ implied consent laws – refusing to take a chemical test is actually a criminal charge. However, you do have the right to speak to your lawyer before taking the chemical test.
If You Want to Record Police –In 2014, a bill was passed that led many Illinois citizens to believe that recording the police was illegal. While the bill does address certain issues surrounding private conversations, the bill still allows the public to record police officers while they are interacting in public.
Documenting your encounter with police is encouraged, whether you are simply writing down the officer’s name and details of your interaction, or filming the incident. The only time that filming or documenting the police is prohibited is when your actions obstruct or prevent officers from performing their duties. Otherwise, you are free to record your conversation with police.
If you believe your constitutional rights were violated during an interaction with law enforcement, record as much of you can of the incident and immediately contact an experienced Illinois defense lawyer.
About the Author:
Andrew M. Weisberg is a former felony prosecutor who now serves as a defense attorney in the greater Chicago area. He has extensive experience in handling all types of criminal cases, from sex offenses and domestic violence to retail theft-related crimes, Murder, and drug crimes.