Updated: May 20, 2020

Know your rights when Stopped by law enforcement in a public space

The American Civil Liberties Union has published an extensive list on this topic via their website This blog series will provide you with their list as well as my own examples and breakdown of their list. Below is the first blog of the series which will discuss what to do when stopped by the police in public #KnowYourRights #TheBornCriminal

1. It is important to know that when you are stopped by the police that you have the right to remain silent. Therefore, you are not required to share unwarranted information with the police that could potentially be incriminating. It is important, however, to look into specific laws in your state in regards to having to give your name. Remember it is a crime to give the police a false name. Also ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS carry some form of I.d.

2. You have the right to not allow the police to search you or your items. It is important if you wish to decline law enforcement's attempt to search you or your belongings that you calmly decline stating that it is your right to not consent to the search. Keep in mind that if you have a visible weapon or the police notice something under your clothing or mixed in with your belongings that their number one priority is (well hopefully) to deescalate the situation in a calm manner as SOME don't wish to inflict harm or be harmed themselves. This is a dangerous situation to be in as police have shown that they have the habit of assuming that everyday items are weapons.

3. The most important thing to do when stopped by the police is to remain calm and stay where you are, do not attempt to run or flee the scene, keep your hands in view of the police and don't make any swift movements. Most times it is assumed that you are guilty of something if you attempt to flee. It is becoming a norm in police involved shootings of unarmed blacks in America for the police to claim the citizen had a weapon and that they feared for the lives. Given the fact that police are killing unarmed people of color regardless of whether they have a weapon, it is best to avoid reaching for anything during your encounter with police.

4. Remember that if the encounter ends in you being detained or arrested the arresting officer(s) are not required to read you your miranda rights!!!!!! Miranda rights are only required when you are in police custody and before interrogation. 5. When detained or arrested make it known that you wish to remain silent and would like your attorney present. DO NOT SIGN ANYTHING, SAY ANYTHING, OR MAKE ANY RASH DECISIONS.

6. You have the right to a phone call when arrested!

6. *YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO CALL YOUR LAWYER* Be smart with your phone call as the police can listen/record any phone call that is made to anyone outside of your lawyer.

7. Upon release be sure to make note of ALL OF THE DETAILS of your experience no matter how small. Examples include badge numbers and police vehicle numbers.

8. If any injury occurs take pictures and get medical help immediately. It is important to keep a record of injuries, because without them your only as good as your word and in situations involving the police your word doesn't carry any weight.

9. You can file a written complaint against the law enforcement through their Internal Affairs division.

*Some may say that these tips serve no real use as the police get away with what they want in the United States. This is partially true as countless black lives have been lost at the hands of malicious police officers. On the other hand this list as well as this series on Know your rights is meant to help educate individuals in hopes of producing more positive encounters with law enforcement. Of course there is always the chance that you can do everything right and still be a victim of police brutality or worse, losing your life but if we know our rights as people of color in America we can begin to fight back to gain justice in a system where injustice occurs too often.*


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