If police have stopped you and it appears they want to arrest you, here are some tips on how to protect yourself during the encounter.
STAY CALM. STAY SAFE.
Breath. While police brutality and police murders expose the inhumane side of law enforcement, a police officer is still a human being. If you are stopped by a police officer and you respond with agitation and anger, he or she will likely meet your energy with the same level of force. More force than what the officer may even want to use. If it’s your first time encountering police, and it leads to an arrest, you must remind yourself that there are good cops out there, who don’t want to hurt you.
Nevertheless, we cannot ignore the fact that police culture has not changed that much since the birth of this country. Whether inadvertent or by design, the criminal justice system has oppressed minorities and marginalized populations for centuries. It’s baked into our history. While Derek Chauvin’s conviction for George Floyd’s murder is a new precedent, we all know that change comes slow and a peaceful demeanor can potentially save your life in a tense police encounter.
TELEPHONE: USE IT
Video-record your encounter with the police on your phone. If police handcuff you early on in your encounter, ask someone else to record. Police now have body-cams, but some fail, some fall off and some are not activated in time. Yes, NYPD self-activates their body-cams. It’s a wonder why some incidents are not fully captured.
TELL THE POLICE
The word, “LAWYER.” That’s it. Don’t bother with your explanations or your own questions. The second you let an officer(s) know you want a lawyer, your constitutional right to remain silent is activated. You don’t have to answer even one question about the incident leading to your arrest after saying, “LAWYER.” It’s a priceless constitutional right that is constantly waived. Don’t be afraid to use it.
If stopped while driving
Provide your license and registration. This is actually a DMV rule. When you step into a car, you have agreed to be governed by the DMV’s “rules of the road.” You are supposed to have a driver’s license and car registration. Other than that “S.T.T.F.U.” because
“ANYTHING YOU SAY CAN AND WILL BE USED AGAINST YOU.”
Let your lawyer do the talking. 100s of our clients have tried to talk their way out of an arrest. It doesn’t work.
TELL BYSTANDERS YOUR NAME AND A NUMBER TO CALL
If you’re alone when police arrest you, and you fear that they are not going to follow protocol, or worse hurt you, yell out to bystanders:
+ YOUR NAME and
+ A PHONE NUMBER of a loved one
Law enforcement can haul you away in a matter of seconds. In this scenario, bystanders don’t know who you are and have no way of alerting your loved ones or a lawyer about your arrest. If there are bystanders who care and have their phones out recording, they can review their videos and alert someone that you have been taken away.
NOTE: When a lawyer calls a local precinct to inform police she knows they have her client (a.k.a. you), the lawyer MUST provide the precinct with the client’s name. A precinct is not going to give away this information. This is why it’s vital to immediately notify the right people that you’ve been arrested. A lawyer can make these critical phone calls in minutes. This can potentially stop the police from interrogating you or worse from assaulting you. It lets the police know that someone is watching and will expose any unlawful conduct.
FOLLOW POLICE REQUESTS WITHIN REASON
You can remain silent while complying with requests. If police are assaulting you obviously this is not possible. However, if they are not hurting you and police have decided to arrest you:
HANDCUFFS are used pretty much every time and it’s protocol. If you fight being handcuffed, police are allowed to use force (and at times hurt you) to get the handcuffs on you.
Say the word, “LAWYER.” Even if you don’t know any lawyers, it lets the police know they cannot talk to you any longer and must process you so that you can get to court and talk to a lawyer.
GO PEACEFULLY to the precinct with the police. Even if you are being unlawfully arrested. If you’ve been handcuffed, it is close to impossible that you are going to talk your way out of the situation.
GIVE YOUR NAME and DOB: Police will eventually find out who you are via fingerprint scanning or retina scanning.
WAIT TO TALK to a lawyer at the courthouse before speaking to ANY law enforcement (ie: police, detectives, prosecutors, prosecutors’ staff, etc.). Under the law, police are actually permitted to trick you into talking to them. Don’t fall for it.
Some battles are best fought for you. At the end of the day, police have their handcuffs, guns and colleagues. Since you cannot fight off any of these, particularly bullets, wait to win the situation once you have an advocate by your side. Once you are processed and your lawyer has stepped into the case, he or she will figure out how to expose any illegal encounters and fight to clear your name.