Educating yourself about how to interact with the police during a stop, questioning, or even a simple encounter enables you to handle the situation in a way that protects your rights and your livelihood. Being stopped by police can trigger a lot of fear – no one wants to be pulled over, questioned, or arrested. That’s why it’s important to know your rights and be prepared with what you’ll say and do in advance.
Remember this: You always have the right to remain silent. This right is granted to you by the U.S. Constitution as a citizen of this country. Often, when you’ve been pulled over or stopped for questioning, remaining silent when interacting with police can potentially help your chances of a better outcome later. You also have the right to an attorney at any time while talking with police, whether you’ve committed a crime or not.
If you do not feel conformable talking with the police, it is suggested that you remain silent and request to talk with an attorney. We suggest to our clients to carry a copy of the following statement below with them at all times on a piece of paper in their wallet or in their vehicle:
“As a U.S. citizen, I am invoking the rights granted to be by the 5th amendment of the constitution. I wish to remain silent. I do not wish to speak with you or answer any further questions, and I do not consent to any searches. I respectfully ask to contact my attorney. Thank you for honoring this request. “
The Claiborne Firm, P.C.
Phone number: (912) 351-8775
410 E Bay St.
Savannah, GA 31401
We categorize police encounters into three tiers from a simple interaction to an arrest:
Tier 1 Encounters – Tier 1 encounters are simple interactions, similar to any interaction you would have with a normal citizen. You could initiate a conversation with someone on the street or vice versa, and either party can simply walk away without obligation. You have the same freedom in this type of interaction with police.
They can attempt to speak with you, and you can choose not to speak with them. If they go on to question, detain, search, and arrest you, your case could potentially be dismissed because they stopped you at random, and you tried to exercise your right to remain silent. If you are undertrain about the intentions of the police officer, you can kindly ask the officer “Am I being detained, or I am free to go?”
Tier 2 Encounters – In a Tier 2 encounter, police must have something called “reasonable articulable suspicion.” Reasonable suspicion means they have reason to believe you are currently committing or are likely to commit a crime. For example, you become briefly distracted in your vehicle and start to veer toward the center lane, swerving back before you cross it. This is not necessary illegal, in and of itself, but Georgia courts have ruled that this constitutes reasonable suspicion for an officer to make a stop. With reasonable suspicion, they can pull you over to question you. The police will request your identification, registration, and proof of insurance. If you continue to be questioned by the police, you can kindly express your need to remain silent and request an attorney if you choose.
Tier 3 Encounters – Tier 3 encounters include full arrests. To justify an arrest, officers must have “probable cause” to believe you committed or are committing a crime. This means they made a legal stop based on reasonable suspicion and discovered something that gave them probable cause. For example, you were pulled over for rolling through a stop sign. After approaching your vehicle, the officer smells cannabis. That constitutes probable cause to search you.
With probable cause, they still have the right to search you, but it’s important to exercise your right to not consent to any searches of your vehicle or property. Without your consent, they know they must be able to definitively prove in court that they had reasonable suspicion and probable cause. If you consent to a search, they don’t have to prove they had any reasonable suspicion or probable cause because you allowed them in. Either way, if they search you and find drugs or contraband, they can legally arrest you.
The Claiborne Firm fights unjust treatment in the legal system – from police to prisons to courts. We only take cases that matter so we can give them our full attention. Once we commit to a case, we defend our clients aggressively, brainstorming creative solutions to cases that seem hopeless.
If you have been stopped or arrested by law enforcement, please schedule a free, no-obligation case evaluation with the Claiborne Firm.
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