Five Simple Steps to Dealing with a Police Stop
It seems almost every day on social media there is a video or story about someone having a serious interaction with the police, whether they are in a car or walking in public, a place where they have a right to walk. These difficult and often hostile confrontations typically occur when a police officer stops someone on suspicion of a crime and begins interrogating them. While there are Constitutional principles at play that can protect citizens from police overreaching, there are also a number of things that ordinary citizens can do to protect themselves and establish a clear defense if arrested.
At Lobo Law, our number one priority is seeking justice for our clients. If you’ve been arrested based on an unlawful pretext or been subject to an unlawful search, you deserve to be represented by an aggressive and experienced attorney who will help you fight for your freedom. Give us a call today to speak with an attorney. Here are five quick and simple steps to keep in mind when being questioned or detained by the police.
#1 – Be respectful at all times
No matter how you look at the issue, when a police officer is questioning you, they are acting in their capacity under the law. Even if they are clearly violating those laws, they are still people. That means they have human emotions, egos, fears, and biases. You can wish that they didn’t, but ultimately in that moment, you are still dealing with a person. Remember that your behavior, the way you speak, and the tone you use can escalate or diffuse a bad situation. Always be respectful and courteous, even if the officer is not.
#2 – Ask why you are being stopped or detained
This is always a difficult thing to do, but you have a right to ask the question, “May I ask why you stopped me today?” Again, use a friendly and polite tone, but ask.
Police officers are trained to ask you the question, “Do you know why I stopped you?” This question does one thing. It is a way to hopefully get the suspect to admit they committed a crime. If you answer with something like “speeding,” then you are doing their job for them. Just say “no” and ask them the reason. If the officer gives a clearly false reason, then you have now established that the stop was likely a pretext for something else (i.e. racial profiling, etc.).
#3 – Comply but know when not to
This is one of those grey areas in the law, and there is often no perfect answer to when you should cease complying with their requests. As a general rule of thumb, if an officer is asking you for identification, you should provide it. This does not admit guilt or reveal anything except who you are. If the officer asks you to keep your hands visible, do so. This again does nothing to hurt you.
If the officer begins asking you questions about where you are going or where you are coming from, you may wish to simply refrain and explain that without an attorney you would not feel comfortable answering any questions. While you’ve done nothing wrong, you certainly have no obligation to answer questions. Remember, a general rule of thumb is that 99% of the time an officer never asks a question they do not already know the answer to.
It is understandable to be afraid to make this statement because the officer is in a position of authority, but it is a statement that must be said to protect yourself and your rights. You may also feel like you’re being disrespectful or making the officer feel like you have something to hide. This is not true.
Keep in mind that any statement you make while an officer is investigating an offense, will be used against you in court. These statements do not have to be Mirandized. Meaning, an officer does not have to advise you of your right to remain silent at the time of his or her investigation.
#4 – Make the officer feel safe
A lot of police officers are killed each year in auto accidents on the side of the road. Anything you can do to make the officer feel safer will go a long way to making the interaction less stressful. For instance, if pulled over, get to a safe, well-lit area. Try to pull as far to the shoulder as possible. Keep your hands visible and explain your actions. If you need to reach for a registration or license, announce it by saying, “Officer, I’d like to reach for my registration and license now.” Just your show of courtesy and respect can help the officer see that you are cooperative and not a threat.
#5 – Do not consent to searches
The law says you have zero obligation to consent to anything. Period. Officers may or may not have a right to search your person or your vehicle during a stop, depending on the facts, their level of suspicion, and whether they have other information to suggest you are committing a crime. For instance, the officer may have a credible tip that you have stolen property in your possession. You won’t know this. Likewise, an officer may just be fishing for evidence by asking to search your car. Either way, you aren’t going to know. So, as a general rule, if an officer asks for consent to search you or your vehicle, respectfully decline and explain that without a warrant you are not willing to authorize this type of intrusion.
If the officer persists and does it anyway, then the government will later have the burden of proving that they had some valid reason. Again, though, be respectful and never try to stop the police or interfere. Once you’ve refused consent, you’ve put the ball in the government’s court and forced them to make a big decision about whether to violate a citizen’s rights or let them go.
Nevada’s Stop and Identify Statute
Nevada law allows police to detain anyone they reasonably believe has committed, is committing or is about to commit a crime. The law allows the police to legally obtain the identification of someone they reasonably suspect has committed a crime. This means that if you are detained, you must reveal your identity to the officer. And, you can’t be held longer than an hour.
In the case of Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial Court of Nevada, the Nevada Supreme Court noted that the stop and identify law does not violate Fourth Amendment rights. Therefore, a person can be charged for failing or refusing to reveal his or her identity to the police when stopped. This law is sometimes referred to as the Stop and Identify law. NRS 171.123 states:
- Any peace officer may detain any person whom the officer encounters under circumstances which reasonably indicate that the person has committed, is committing or is about to commit a crime.
- Any peace officer may detain any person the officer encounters under circumstances which reasonably indicate that the person has violated or is violating the conditions of the person’s parole or probation.
- The officer may detain the person pursuant to this section only to ascertain the person’s identity and the suspicious circumstances surrounding the person’s presence abroad. Any person so detained shall identify himself or herself, but may not be compelled to answer any other inquiry of any peace officer.
- A person must not be detained longer than is reasonably necessary to effect the purposes of this section, and in no event longer than 60 minutes. The detention must not extend beyond the place or the immediate vicinity of the place where the detention was first effected, unless the person is arrested.
On the other hand, if the person is not reasonably suspected of a crime, they are not required to reveal their identification, even with this law. If you are stopped by the police in Nevada, you must identify yourself, even if it means just giving the police your name. But you do not have to answer any additional questions concerning your identity.
Call Lobo Law Today
If you’ve been arrested and charged with a crime you didn’t commit or suspect the government has overreached by performing an unlawful search or seizure, call Lobo Law today at 702-290-8998 to speak with a Las Vegas criminal defense attorney about your case.