Protect your constitutional rights by understanding these seven things about police procedure.
There are certain things police can and cannot do, but the line between lawful procedure and violating your constitutional rights is thin. Consider these seven facts about police procedure –
1. Police must have reasonable suspicion or probable cause
In order to stop your vehicle or arrest you, police must have probable cause or reasonable suspicion that you committed a criminal offense. If the circumstances or facts are not enough to indicate that an offense was committed, but you are arrested or detained anyway, then your case could be dismissed on grounds of improper police procedure.
2. Police must have a search warrant or your consent
You have a constitutional right to be free from unlawful searches and seizures. Police cannot search your home or property unless they have obtained a search warrant or you consent to a search. For example, if you are stopped at a DUI checkpoint, police cannot search your vehicle unless you consent. Police must respect your right to say "I do not consent to searches."
3. Police must inform you of and respect your right to remain silent
You have probably heard the "Miranda Rights" read. You have the right to remain silent is one of the first rights police must inform you of upon arrest. This is your Fifth Amendment right, and police must respect it. You do not have to respond to police officers, and by remaining silent, you protect yourself from self-incrimination.
4. Police must inform you of and respect your right to retain counsel
Another right you have is the right to retain an attorney and have an attorney present during questioning. If you cannot afford an attorney, the state will appoint you one. Part of proper police procedure is informing you of your right to retain counsel.
5. Police cannot detain you without good cause
If police suspect that you have committed a crime, but they do not have probable cause to arrest or detain you, they have to let you go. Police do not have the right to hold you without cause.
6. Police can use drug dogs, but only when the situation calls for it
Police can use drug dogs even if they do not have reasonable suspicion. If the traffic stop (or other type of police encounter) is legitimate, then police can choose to bring drug dogs to the scene as long as it does not unnecessarily delay the person being questioned.
7. Police must follow procedure for requiring and administering SFSTs
There are procedures police must follow for requiring and administering standardized field sobriety tests (SFSTs). If there is probable cause to believe that you are drinking and driving, for example, police can ask you to step out of your vehicle to complete SFSTs. You do have the right to refuse these though. All police officers in the U.S. have to comply with the same rules for administering SFSTs. If administered incorrectly, the evidence could be thrown out.
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