Your Response to Police

Dealing with the Police
In the USA, relations with the Police are good. In part, this is because the public has clear rights and obligations when dealing with the Police. The Police may not act arbitrarily; the public is expected to act responsibly. The following provides a brief outline of some of the rights and obligations that apply to the Police and private citizens.

If the Police do the following

a) If the Police ask you to stop…

The rule is simple - you must stop! If you are driving, you must stop and give your name, address and any other details needed for identification. You are required to carry your driver licence at all times and will be asked to present it. You must also give the name and details of the vehicle's owner or hirer. If you are the owner or hirer, you must give the names and details of your passengers and the driver if other than yourself.

However, once you have provided this information, it is your decision whether you answer any more questions - you do not have to. You are entitled to talk to a lawyer before you answer, or make a written or spoken statement.

b) If the Police ask you to go with them…

You do not have to unless you agree to do so.

c) If the Police suspect you have been driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs…

There can be no dispute here. You must accompany the Police as requested.

d) If the Police want to search you or your home, vehicle or property…

The Police cannot conduct a search without your consent.

e) If the Police have a search warrant, or specific statutory authority…

The Police cannot conduct a search without your consent.

f) If the Police have a search warrant, or specific statutory authority…

They must, first, tell you what this specific authority is - there is a range of search powers. Common cases include specific powers to:

  • Stop a vehicle if someone in it is subject to an arrest warrant or has committed an offence punishable by imprisonment.
  • Search the vehicle for an offender or for criminal evidence
  • Search premises or a vehicle for controlled drugs

g) If the Police want to take your fingerprints…

They can do so only if you agree.

h) If you are questioned by the Police

  • Make sure that the person is a Police officer - a Police officer in plain clothes must show their identification card which includes their photograph and name.
  • Make sure that what you say to, or write for, the Police knows exactly what you mean, if you have difficulties, ask for assistance and/or an interpreter.

i) If you are suspected of having committed a crime, but have not been arrested, you can.

  • Choose whether or not to answer any questions, or make a written or verbal statement.
  • Generally, leave the Police Station when you wish. However, if you have been detained for a blood/alcohol test, you cannot leave until this has been completed.

j) If you are suspected of having committed a crime, and have been arrested, you.

  • Have the right to consult a lawyer immediately - there should be a list of lawyers at the Police Station. If you request advice from a lawyer included on the Police Station's list, this initial legal counsel is provided free of charge.

  • Must give your name, address, occupation, and date and place of birth.

  • Must allow the Police to take fingerprints and photographs, and, in certain circumstances, conduct a search. The Police can, for example, search for criminal evidence or for weapons or objects that might facilitate an escape. However, it is generally illegal for the Police to search a person (or their car or house) for no other reason than the fact of their arrest.

  • Can contact a friend or relative and request permission for them to visit you at the Police Station. Such requests are usually granted, but can be declined on the advice of the Police officer dealing with the investigation.

  • May ask to be ‘released on bail'. This means you are allowed to go home until you have to appear in court on a set date to ‘face charges'. Bail is not an automatic right. There are also usually conditions attached - such as not being allowed to leave the country. There are special rights for children and young people aged under 17 years. The Police officer must explain their rights in a way that they can clearly understand and ensure that another adult or a lawyer is present when they make a statement.