Know Your Rights

Do I have to answer questions asked by the police?

You have the constitutional right to remain silent. It is not a crime to refuse to answer questions asked by police. It is a good idea to speak with a lawyer first, even if you are arrested or already in jail. Only a judge can compel you to speak.

Can police search my home or vehicle?

Only upon probable cause, or if you give permission, or if they have a search warrant; otherwise, no.

What if police stop me on the street?

Keep your hands visible to the officers at all times. Ask if you are free to go and if you are, consider walking away. If you are not under arrest but are nor free to go, you are being detained. The outside of your clothes may be patted down if you are suspected of being armed. If the search extends further, clearly state, “I do not consent to a search”. The police may ask for your name and you can be arrested in some states for not providing it or for providing a false name to police. Do not argue with the officer; it is disrespectful, and may escalate the situation to a dangerous level for you and the officer!

What if I am treated badly by the police?

Write down the officer’s name and badge number. Pittsburgh police officers must provide these when requested. Gather witness names and phone numbers. If you are injured, seek medical attention and photograph injuries as soon as possible.

What if police stop me in a vehicle?

If an officer signals for you to stop, pull over to a safe place and stop as soon as possible. Keep your hands visible and make no sudden movement. Provide the information requested and do not argue with the officer — deal with it in court or file a complaint!

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