Being stopped by police is a stressful experience that can go bad quickly. Here we describe what the law requires and also offer strategies for handling police encounters. We want to be clear: The burden of de-escalation does not fall on private citizens — it falls on police officers. However, you cannot assume officers will behave in a way that protects your safety or that they will respect your rights even after you assert them. You may be able to reduce risk to yourself by staying calm and not exhibiting hostility toward the officers. The truth is that there are situations where people have done everything they could to put an officer at ease, yet still ended up injured or killed.

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Confiamos en la policía para que nos proteja y trate justamente, sin importar la raza, origen étnico, origen nacional ni religión.Esta tarjeta da consejos en caso de tener contacto con la policía y le ayuda a entender sus derechos. Esta información no pretende servir como consejos legales. 

1. I’ve been stopped by the police in public

Q.I’ve been stopped by the police in public
A.

Your rights

  • You have the right to remain silent. For example, you do not have to answer any questions about where you are going, where you are traveling from, what you are doing, or where you live. If you wish to exercise your right to remain silent, say so out loud. (In some states, you may be required to provide your name if asked to identify yourself, and an officer may arrest you for refusing to do so.)
  • You do not have to consent to a search of yourself or your belongings, but police may pat down your clothing if they suspect a weapon. Note that refusing consent may not stop the officer from carrying out the search against your will, but making a timely objection before or during the search can help preserve your rights in any later legal proceeding.
  • If you are arrested by police, you have the right to a government-appointed lawyer if you cannot afford one.
  • You do not have to answer questions about where you were born, whether you are a U.S. citizen, or how you entered the country. (Separate rules apply at international borders and airports as well as for individuals on certain nonimmigrant visas, including tourists and business travelers. For more specific guidance about how to deal with immigration-related questions, see our immigrants’ rights section.)

How to reduce risk to yourself

  • Stay calm. Don’t run, resist, or obstruct the officers. Do not lie or give false documents. Keep your hands where the police can see them.

What to do if you are arrested or detained

  • Say you wish to remain silent and ask for a lawyer immediately. Don’t give any explanations or excuses. Don’t say anything, sign anything, or make any decisions without a lawyer.
  • If you have been arrested by police, you have the right to make a local phone call. The police cannot listen if you call a lawyer. They can and often do listen if you call anyone else.

If you believe your rights were violated

  • Write down everything you remember, including officers’ badges and patrol car numbers, which agency the officers were from, and any other details. Get contact information for witnesses.
  • If you’re injured, seek medical attention immediately and take photographs of your injuries.
  • File a written complaint with the agency’s internal affairs division or civilian complaint board. In most cases, you can file a complaint anonymously if you wish.

What you can do if you think you’re witnessing police abuse or brutality

  • Stand at a safe distance and, if possible, use your phone to record video of what is happening. As long as you do not interfere with what the officers are doing and do not stand close enough to obstruct their movements, you have the right to observe and record events that are plainly visible in public spaces.
  • Do not try to hide the fact that you are recording. Police officers do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy when performing their jobs, but the people they are interacting with may have privacy rights that would require you to notify them of the recording. In many states (see here) you must affirmatively make people aware that you are recording them.
  • Police officers may not confiscate or demand to view your photographs or video without a warrant, and they may not delete your photographs or video under any circumstances. If an officer orders you to stop recording or orders you to hand over your phone, you should politely but firmly tell the officer that you do not consent to doing so, and remind the officer that taking photographs or video is your right under the First Amendment. Be aware that some officers may arrest you for refusing to comply even though their orders are illegal. The arrest would be unlawful, but you will need to weigh the personal risks of arrest (including the risk that officer may search you upon arrest) against the value of continuing to record.
  • Whether or not you are able to record everything, make sure to write down everything you remember, including officers’ badge and patrol car numbers, which agency the officers were from, how many officers were present and what their names were,  any use of weapons (including less-lethal weapons such as Tasers or batons), and any injuries suffered by the person stopped. If you are able to speak to the person stopped by police after the police leave, they may find your contact information helpful in case they decide to file a complaint or pursue a lawsuit against the officers. 

2. I’ve been pulled over by the police

Q.I’ve been pulled over by the police
A.

Your rights

  • Both drivers and passengers have the right to remain silent.
  • If you’re a passenger, you can ask if you’re free to leave. If yes, you may silently leave.

How to reduce risk to yourself

  • Stop the car in a safe place as quickly as possible.
  • Turn off the car, turn on the internal light, open the window part way, and place your hands on the wheel. If you’re in the passenger seat, put your hands on the dashboard.
  • Upon request, show police your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance.
  • Avoid making sudden movements, and keep your hands where the officer can see them.

What to do if you are arrested or detained

  • Say you wish to remain silent and ask for a lawyer immediately. Don’t give any explanations or excuses. Don’t say anything, sign anything, or make any decisions without a lawyer.
  • If you have been arrested by police, you have the right to make a local phone call. The police cannot listen if you call a lawyer. They can and often will listen to a call made to anyone else.

If you believe your rights were violated

  • Write down everything you remember, including officers’ badges and patrol car numbers, which agency the officers were from, and any other details. Get contact information for witnesses.
  • If you’re injured, seek medical attention immediately and take photographs of your injuries.
  • File a written complaint with the agency’s internal affairs division or civilian complaint board. In most cases, you can file a complaint anonymously if you wish.

What you can do if you think you’re witnessing police abuse or brutality

  • Stand at a safe distance and, if possible, use your phone to record video of what is happening. As long as you do not interfere with what the officers are doing and do not stand close enough to obstruct their movements, you have the right to observe and record events that are plainly visible in public spaces.
  • Do not try to hide the fact that you are recording. Police officers do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy when performing their jobs, but the people they are interacting with may have privacy rights that would require you to notify them of the recording. In many states you must affirmatively make people aware that you are recording them.
  • Police officers may not confiscate or demand to view your photographs or video without a warrant, and they may not delete your photographs or video under any circumstances. If an officer orders you to stop recording or orders you to hand over your phone, you should politely but firmly tell the officer that you do not consent to doing so, and remind the officer that taking photographs or video is your right under the First Amendment. Be aware that some officers may arrest you for refusing to comply even though their orders are illegal. The arrest would be unlawful, but you will need to weigh the personal risks of arrest (including the risk that officer may search you upon arrest) against the value of continuing to record.
  • Whether or not you are able to record everything, make sure to write down everything you remember, including officers’ badge and patrol car numbers, which agency the officers were from, how many officers were present and what their names were,  any use of weapons (including less-lethal weapons such as Tasers or batons), and any injuries suffered by the person stopped. If you are able to speak to the person stopped by police after the police leave, they may find your contact information helpful in case they decide to file a complaint or pursue a lawsuit against the officers.

 

3. The police are at my door

Q.The police are at my door
A.

Your rights and how to reduce risk to yourself

  • You should not invite the officer into your house. Talk with the officers through the door and ask them to show you identification. You do not have to let them in unless they can show you a warrant signed by a judicial officer that lists your address as a place to be searched or that has your name on it as the subject of an arrest warrant Ask the officer to slip the warrant under the door or hold it up to the window so you can read it. A search warrant allows police to enter the address listed on the warrant, but officers can only search the areas and for the items listed. An arrest warrant has the name of the person to be arrested.
  • Even if officers have a warrant, you have the right to remain silent. You should not answer questions or speak to the officers while they are in your house conducting their search. Stand silently and observe what they do, where they go, and what they take. Write down everything you observed as soon as you can.

When your rights have been violated

  • Write down everything you remember, including officers’ badge and patrol car numbers, which agency the officers were from, and any other details. Get contact information for witnesses.
  • File a written complaint with the agency’s internal affairs division or civilian complaint board. In most cases, you can file a complaint anonymously if you wish.

How to be a responsible bystander

  • If you are a guest inside the house and end up answering the door, you should make clear to the police that you are a guest and do not have the authority to let them inside without the homeowner’s permission. 

4. I’ve been arrested by the police

Q.I’ve been arrested by the police
A.

How to prepare for possible arrest

  • Prepare yourself and your family in case you are arrested. Memorize the phone numbers of your family and your lawyer. Make emergency plans if you have children or take medication.

Your rights

  • Say you wish to remain silent and ask for a lawyer immediately. Don’t answer any questions or give any explanations or excuses. If you can’t pay for a lawyer, you have the right to a free one. Don’t say anything, sign anything or make any decisions without a lawyer.
  • You have the right to make a local phone call. The police cannot listen if you call a lawyer. They can and often will listen to a call made to anyone else.

How to reduce risk to yourself

  • Do not resist arrest, even if you believe the arrest is unfair. Follow the officers’ commands.

When your rights have been violated

  • Write down everything you remember, including officers’ badge and patrol car numbers, which agency the officers were from, and any other details. Get contact information for witnesses.
  • File a written complaint with the agency’s internal affairs division or civilian complaint board. In most cases, you can file a complaint anonymously if you wish.

What you can do if you think you’re witnessing police abuse or brutality

  • Stand at a safe distance and, if possible, use your phone to record video of what is happening. As long as you do not interfere with what the officers are doing and do not stand close enough to obstruct their movements, you have the right to observe and record events that are plainly visible in public spaces.
  • Do not try to hide the fact that you are recording. Police officers do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy when performing their jobs, but the people they are interacting with may have privacy rights that would require you to notify them of the recording. In many states (see here) you must affirmatively make people aware that you are recording them.
  • Police officers may not confiscate or demand to view your photographs or video without a warrant, and they may not delete your photographs or video under any circumstances. If an officer orders you to stop recording or orders you to hand over your phone, you should politely but firmly tell the officer that you do not consent to doing so, and remind the officer that taking photographs or video is your right under the First Amendment. Be aware that some officers may arrest you for refusing to comply even though their orders are illegal. The arrest would be unlawful, but you will need to weigh the personal risks of arrest (including the risk that officer may search you upon arrest) against the value of continuing to record.
  • Whether or not you are able to record everything, make sure to write down everything you remember, including officers’ badge and patrol car numbers, which agency the officers were from, how many officers were present and what their names were, any use of weapons (including less-lethal weapons such as Tasers or batons), and any injuries suffered by the person stopped. If you are able to speak to the person stopped by police after the police leave, they may find your contact information helpful in case they decide to file a complaint or pursue a lawsuit against the officers.

5. The police violated my rights

Q.The police violated my rights
A.

When you can, write down everything you remember, including the officers’ badge and patrol car numbers and the agency they work for.

  • Get contact information for witnesses.
  • If you’re injured, seek medical attention immediately and take photographs of your injuries.
  • File a written complaint with the agency’s internal affairs division or civilian complaint board.

6. Qué debe hacer si la policía, agentes de inmigración o el FBI lo detienen?

Q.Qué debe hacer si la policía, agentes de inmigración o el FBI lo detienen?
A.

Sus Derechos

  • Usted tiene el derecho de permanecer en silencio. Si desea ejercer ese derecho, dígalo en voz alta.
  • Usted tiene el derecho de negar permiso a un registro de su persona, vehículo o casa.
  • Si no está bajo arresto, tiene el derecho de irse con calma.
  • Usted tiene el derecho a un abogado, si lo arrestan. Pida uno inmediatamente.
  • Sin importar de su estatus migratorio o de ciudadanía, usted tiene derechos constitucionales.

Sus Responsabilidades

  • Guarde la calma y sea amable.
  • No interfiera con la policía ni los obstruya.
  • No diga mentiras ni entregue documentos falsos.
  • Prepárese a sí mismo y a su familia en caso de que lo arresten.
  • Recuerde los detalles del incidente.
  • Prepare una denuncia por escrito o llame a la ACLU de su localidad si piensa que han violado sus derechos.

7. Si lo paran para cuestionarlo

Q.Si lo paran para cuestionarlo
A.

Guarde la calma. No huya. No discuta, ni resista ni obstruya a la policía, aunque sea inocente y la policía esté violando sus derechos. Mantenga siempre las manos donde la policía las pueda ver.

Pregunte si es libre para irse. Si el oficial dice que sí, aléjese con tranquilidad y en silencio. Si lo arrestan, tiene el derecho de saber por qué.

Usted tiene derecho de permanecer en silencio y no puede ser castigado por negarse a contestar preguntas. Si desea permanecer en silencio, dígale al oficial en voz alta. En algunos estados, tiene que dar su nombre si le piden que se identifique.

Usted no esta obligado a dar permiso de que lo registren ni en su persona ni sus pertenencias, pero la policía puede registrarle la ropa si sospechan que tiene un arma. No debe oponer resistencia física, pero tiene derecho de negar permiso a más registros. Si usted consiente, esto le puede perjudicar después en un tribunal.

8. Si lo paran en su vehículo

Q.Si lo paran en su vehículo
A.

Pare el vehículo en un lugar seguro lo más pronto posible. Apague el auto, encienda la luz interior, abra la ventana un poco y coloque las manos sobre el volante.

Si se lo solicitan, muestre a la policía su licencia de conducir, registro y prueba de seguro.

Si un policía o agente de inmigración le pide registrar el interior de su auto, usted puede negar su permiso. Sin embargo, si la policía cree que su auto contiene evidencia de un crimen, puede registrarlo sin su permiso.

Tanto los conductores como los pasajeros tienen derecho a permanecer en silencio. Si usted es pasajero, puede preguntar si está libre de irse. Si el oficial dice que sí, permanezca sentado en silencio o retírese con calma. Aunque el oficial diga que no, usted tiene derecho a permanecer en silencio.

9. Si le preguntan acerca de su estatus migratorio

Q.Si le preguntan acerca de su estatus migratorio
A.

Usted tiene derecho a permanecer en silencio y no tiene que hablar acerca de su estatus migratorio o de ciudadanía con la policía, agentes de inmigración ni cualquier otro oficial. Usted no tiene que responder a preguntas acerca de dónde nació, si usted es ciudadano de los EE.UU. ni cómo ingresó al país. (Se aplican reglas distintas en los cruces fronterizos internacionales y aeropuertos, y a individuos con ciertas visas de noinmigrantes, incluyendo los turistas y las personas en viajes de negocios.)

Si usted no es ciudadano de los EE.UU., y un agente de inmigración le pide sus documentos de inmigración, usted debe mostrárselos si los lleva consigo. Si usted es mayor de los 18 años de edad, lleve sus documentos de inmigración consigo en todo momento. Si no tiene documentos de inmigración, diga que quiere permanecer en silencio.

No mienta acerca de su estatus de ciudadanía ni entregue documentos falsos.

10. Si la polícia o agentes de inmigración llegan a su casa

Q.Si la polícia o agentes de inmigración llegan a su casa
A.

Si la policía o agentes de inmigración llegan a su casa, usted no tiene que dejarles entrar a menos de que ellos tengan ciertos tipos de órdenes judiciales.

Pida al oficial que pase la orden judicial por debajo de la puerta o que la sostenga a la ventanilla de la puerta para que usted pueda revisarla. Una orden de cateo (“search warrant”) le permite a la policía ingresar a la dirección indicada en la orden, pero los oficiales sólo pueden registrar las áreas y por los artículos que se mencionen en la orden. Una orden de arresto (“arrest warrant”) le permite a la policía ingresar a la casa de la persona indicada en la orden si creen que la persona se encuentra adentro. Una orden de deportación/remoción (“ICE warrant”) no les permite a los agentes ingresar a su casa sin su permiso.

Aun si los agentes u oficiales tienen una orden judicial, usted tiene el derecho a permanecer en silencio. Si usted elige hablar con los oficiales, salga y cierre la puerta.

11. Si es contactado por el FBI

Q.Si es contactado por el FBI
A.

Si un agente del FBI llega a su casa o lugar de trabajo, usted no tiene que contestar ninguna pregunta. Dígale al agente que quiere hablar con un abogado primero.

Si se le pide reunirse con agentes del FBI para que lo entrevisten, usted tiene derecho a decir que no quiere que lo entrevisten. Si usted acepta que lo entrevisten, tenga presente a un abogado. Usted no tiene que contestar ninguna pregunta si no se siente cómodo contestarla, y puede decir que sólo contestará preguntas acerca de un tema específico.

12. Si lo arrestan

Q.Si lo arrestan
A.

No oponga resistencia al arresto, aun si piensa que es injusto que lo arresten.

Diga que desea permanecer en silencio y pida inmediatamente a un abogado. No dé ninguna explicación ni pretexto. Si no puede pagar por un abogado, tiene derecho a uno de manera gratuita. No diga nada, ni firme nada ni tome ninguna decisión sin un abogado.

Usted tiene derecho a una llamada local. La policía no puede escuchar si llama a un abogado.

Prepárese a sí mismo y a su familia en caso de que lo arresten. Memorice los teléfonos de su familia y de su abogado. Haga planes de emergencia si tiene hijos o toma medicamentos.

Consideraciones especiales para personas que no son ciudadanos:

  • Pregunte a su abogado acerca del impacto a su condición migratoria si recibe una condena penal o se declara culpable de los cargos.
  • No hable de su estatus migratorio con nadie excepto su abogado.
  • Mientras se encuentre en la cárcel, es posible que le visite un agente de inmigración. No responda a preguntas ni firme nada antes de hablar con un abogado.
  • Lea cuidadosamente todos los documentos. Si no entiende o no puede leer los documentos, dígale al oficial que necesita un intérprete.

13. Si lo ponen en custodia de inmigración (ICE)

Q.Si lo ponen en custodia de inmigración (ICE)
A.

Usted tiene derecho a un abogado, pero el gobierno no tiene que darle uno. Si usted no tiene abogado, pida que le den una lista de proveedores de servicios de asesoría legal gratuitos o de bajo costo.

Usted tiene derecho a comunicarse con su consulado o a que un oficial notifique al consulado de su arresto.

Dígale al agente de inmigración que desea permanecer en silencio. No hable de su estatus migratorio con nadie más que con su abogado.

No firme nada, como una solicitud donde acepte su salida voluntaria del país o una orden estipulada de remoción, sin hablar con un abogado primero. Si firma, es posible que usted esté renunciando a la oportunidad de tratar de permanecer en los EE.UU.

Recuerde su número de inmigración (“A number”) y déselo a su familia. Esto ayudará a que sus familiares lo localicen.
Mantenga una copia de sus documentos de inmigración con alguien quien le tenga confianza.

14. Si cree que sus derechos han sido violados

Q.Si cree que sus derechos han sido violados
A.

Recuerde: no se puede impugnar la mala conducta de la policía en la calle. No oponga resistencia física a los oficiales ni amenace con presentar una denuncia.

Anote todo lo que recuerde, incluyendo el número de placa de los oficiales y sus vehículos de patrulla, a qué agencia pertenecen y cualquier otro detalle. Obtenga los datos de los testigos para poder contactarlos. Si resulta lesionado, tome fotografías de sus lesiones (pero busque atención médica primero).

Presente una denuncia por escrito ante la división de investigaciones internos o una junta de revisión ciudadana de quejas. En la mayoría de los casos podrá presentar su denuncia de manera anónima si desea.

Llame a la ACLU de su localidad o visite www.aclu.org/profiling.