We rely on the police to protect us, but law enforcement officials are also legally required to treat us fairly. Unfortunately, defense attorneys know that police officers sometimes resort to illegal tactics like intimidation or improper searches-and may even use unnecessary force against Rockville citizens. Read on to make sure you know your rights if you are ever stopped and questioned by the police.
Right to Remain Silent
A police officer has the power to approach you and ask questions; however, that does not mean you are required to answer. You have the right to remain silent and may exercise that right at any time. If you feel uncomfortable, defense lawyers advise exercising your right immediately, as anything that you say can be used against you later in court. But always remember that just being approached by the police does not necessarily make you a suspect. Try to be as cooperative as possible, and never lie to a law enforcement official.
Right to Refuse Search
Whether you are questioned or stopped, you can refuse to give your consent for an officer to search your person, vehicle or home. Your refusal will force the police officer to legally justify any search made without your consent. Remember that Maryland law does allow some limited searches – like patdowns – if you are being stopped and searched for weapons.
Right to Leave
If you are not under arrest, you have the right to calmly leave at any point. As defense attorneys remind their clients, a police officer may never use force or a show of authority such that an individual does not feel free to leave. If the officer interferes with your liberty to move about, he or she should first have a reasonable suspicion that you have been involved in a crime. The officer would need to support this suspicion later in court.
Right to an Attorney
Finally, if your questioning leads to an arrest and criminal charge, you always have the right to contact a criminal defense lawyer. Only an attorney can make sure your rights are protected as your case moves through the justice system.