4. Know your rights in police interactions

Even if you believe the police are violating your rights, don’t struggle or fight back. It’s important to stay safe. Step 5 explains your options if your rights are violated.

If the police ask you questions

The police are allowed to ask you questions at any time. In almost all situations you don’t have to answer. You can say, “I don’t want to answer any questions.” You don’t need to explain why you don’t want to answer their questions.

There’s no law that says you must always carry ID in public. In most situations, if the police ask for your ID, you don’t have to show it to them or tell them anything. But if the police are charging you with an , you must tell them your correct name and date of birth. If you don’t, they can you to figure out who you are. You also have to show ID if the police stop you while you’re driving or riding a bike.

Don’t lie to the police. You can be charged for giving false information, including a fake name.

If the police want to search you or your belongings

In most cases the police can search you only if:

  • you give permission,
  • they have a ,
  • they’re detaining you to investigate a crime, but they can only pat you with their hands to make sure you don’t have a weapon, or
  • they’re arresting you.

If you don’t want to be searched, you can say, “I don’t consent to the search.” You should only be searched by an officer of the same gender as you. You can tell the police whether you prefer to be searched by a male or female officer.

If the police detain you

The police can detain you if they believe you’re connected to a crime. If you’re not sure whether you’re being , ask them, “Am I free to go?”

If the police you, they must tell you why. You don’t have to answer any questions while you’re detained.

If the police arrest you

If the police arrest you, they must:

  • Tell you why you’re .
  • Only search you in a reasonable way.
  • Allow you to speak to a lawyer. Ask to speak to a lawyer as soon as possible. Once you ask, the police cannot question you until you’ve spoken to one. They must give you a phone number for a free lawyer and a private place to make the call. You can call the free lawyer or another lawyer. You can make as many phone calls as you need to reach the lawyer you want. The police must do what they can to help you reach the lawyer you want.
  • Remain silent. You must give your correct name and date of birth, but you don’t need to answer any other questions. Even if you refuse to talk, the police might continue to ask you questions, but you still don’t have to answer. It is hardly ever a good idea to answer police questions.
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