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Maximilian R. Goldberg, P.A.
106 S. Tampania Ave., Suite 100
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Hillsborough County

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What To Do If You Are Stopped By The Police

To effectively protect your rights you need to know your rights. There are some things you should do, some things you must do and some things you cannot do. Print a copy of this and carry it in your wallet, pocket or glove compartment to give you quick access to your rights concerning police encounters.

  • Think carefully about your words, movement, body language, and emotions.
  • Remember, anything you say or do can and will be used against you.
  • Keep your hands where the police can see them.
  • Don't touch or resist any police officer, even if you believe you are innocent
  • Don't argue on the scene or tell the police that you're going to file a complaint.
  • Do not make any statements. Ask for a lawyer immediately upon your arrest.
  • Remember badge & patrol car numbers.
  • Write down everything you remember ASAP.
  • Try to find witnesses & their phone numbers.
  • If you are injured, take photographs of the injuries as soon as possible.
  • If you feel your rights have been violated, file a written complaint with police internal affairs or civilian complaint board.

You don't have to answer any questions if you are detained or arrested, with one important exception. The police may ask for your name if you have been properly detained, and you can be arrested in some states for refusing to give it. If you reasonably fear that your name is incriminating, you can claim the right to remain silent, which may be a defense in case you are arrested anyway. You don't have to consent to any search of yourself, your car or your house. However, police may "pat-down" your clothing if they suspect a concealed weapon. Don't physically resist, but make it clear that you don't consent to any further search. Ask if you are under arrest, if you are, you have a right to know why. If you DO consent to a search, it can affect your rights later in court. If the police say they have a search warrant, ASK TO SEE IT. Do not interfere with, or obstruct the police, you can be arrested for it.


  1. Upon request, you must show them your driver's license, registration, and proof of insurance. In certain cases, your car can be searched without a warrant as long as the police have probable cause. To protect yourself, you should make it clear that you do not consent to a search. The police cannot arrest you simply for refusing to consent to a search.
  2. If you're given a ticket, you should sign it; otherwise you can be arrested.
  3. If you're suspected of drunk driving (DUI) and refuse to take a blood, urine or breath test, your driver's license may be suspended.


  1. Ask to see a lawyer immediately. If you can't pay for a lawyer, you have a right to a free one, and should ask the police how the lawyer can be contacted. Don't say anything without a lawyer.
  2. Within a reasonable time after your arrest, or booking, you have the right to make a phone call: to a lawyer or any other person. The police may not listen to the call to the lawyer.
  3. You can be released without bail, or have bail lowered. Have your lawyer ask the judge about this possibility. You must be taken before the judge on the next court day after arrest.
  4. Do not make any decisions in your case until you have talked with a lawyer.


  1. If the police ask to enter your home they must have a warrant signed by a judge.
  2. However, in some situations (like when a person is screaming for help, or when the police are chasing someone) officers are allowed to enter and search your home without a warrant.
  3. If you are arrested, the police can search you and the area close by. If you are in a building, "close by" usually means just the room you are in.

We all recognize the need for effective law enforcement, but we should also understand our own rights and responsibilities -- especially in our relationships with the police. Everyone, including minors, has the right to courteous and respectful police treatment.

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