Constitutional Rights and Police Powers

What Can You Do?

Assert Your Constitutional Rights:

Be polite and respectful

Being polite and respectful is the best way to minimize the interaction.

Ask if you are free to leave

If you are not free to leave, ask why you are being detained.

Do not consent to a search

You have a 4th Amendment right to refuse to consent to a search.

Refuse to answer questions

You have a 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Record misconduct

In California, you have a right to record police conduct as long it does no interfere with their duties.

Ask for an attorney

You have 5th and 6th Amendment rights to assistance from an attorney.

Remain Silent

Do not discuss what happened with anyone except your attorney.

What can Police Do?

It depends on their level of suspicion:

TALK to you in passing

Police need a reason to be in the same area (usually a 911 call)

STOP you for questioning (temporary detention)

Police need a reasonable suspicion you committed a crime or are about to commit a crime

PULL OVER your car

Police need a reasonable suspicion that you committed a traffic violation.

PAT you for weapons (stop and frisk)

Police need a reasonable suspicion that you are armed and dangerous.

SEARCH you or your car

Police need probable cause to believe they will find evidence of a crime where they search


Police need probable cause that you have committed or were about to commit a crime

What can Police do with your consent?

Almost anything to find evidence of a crime on you or in your car.

If the police ask for your consent, respectfully tell them that you do not consent. Giving consent may prevent you from challenging that search in court.

Can I resist the Police?

DO NOT resist the police or disobey their orders unless you are certain it is necessary to prevent your death or serious bodily harm.

What if I am hurt by police brutality?

You have 6 months to file a claim for damages with the local law enforcement agency and 2 years to file a federal civil rights lawsuit.