One of the most common questions lawyers get asked is if the police can stop someone on the street. There are a few factors to consider before answering this question, so keep reading to learn more.
Can the Police Stop You on the Street?
A police officer may interfere with your freedom of movement only if they have observed unusual activity or received information that suggests that you are or were involved in criminal activity.
Now, this doesn’t mean that the police officer must be right in their suspicion in order to stop you—They can do it as long as they have a good-faith reason to believe you were involved in criminal activity.
However, as we’ll see in the next section, even if the police stops you, you don’t have to answer all their questions.
What To Do if You Are Stopped by Police
If you are stopped by police, keep the following guidelines in mind:
- Don’t resist or obstruct the police and keep your hands where they can see them.
- Ask if you are free to leave. If the answer is “yes,” walk away calmly. If the answer is that you are under arrest, you have the right to know why.
- You have the right to remain silent and the police cannot punish you for refusing to answer questions. However, in some states, you must give your name if the police ask you to identify yourself.
- Police may pat down your clothes if they suspect you are carrying a weapon, but you have the right to refuse any further search. If you consent, it can affect you later in court.
- Keep in mind that you do not have to discuss your immigration or citizenship status with police officers, although different rules apply at international borders and airports and for people on certain nonimmigrant visas, such as tourist visas).
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