What should you do if you are stopped by a cop?

If you are stopped by the police — whether you are innocent or guilty — the best defense is to KNOW YOUR RIGHTS! Remember that you do not need to say anything and you do not need to explain yourself. Do not admit to breaking the law!

When that cop tells you things will go better for you if you just tell the truth, it most certainly will not! Exercise your right to remain SILENT. If you are arrested, do not speak until you have an attorney! (Also check out our stopped by a cop do's and don'ts.)

If you are stopped on your motorcycle

Upon request, you must show your driver's license, motorcycle registration, and proof of insurance. In some cases, the police have a right to search you without a warrant. But you should always protect your rights by making it clear that you are not consenting to a search. If you consent to the search, it may be impossible for your attorney to later argue that the search was improper or illegal.

If the cop suspects that you are driving under the influence of alcohol, and requests that you take a breath, blood, or urine test, DO NOT REFUSE. In most states, the penalties for refusing such a test are worse than the penalties for a DUI or DWI. (IN many states, a driver who refuses a breath, blood, or urine test will lose his or her license for a full year.) To make matters worse, it is likely that you will still get the DUI!

If the cop gives you a ticket and requests that you sign it, you should sign. Otherwise, he may have the right to arrest you.

Remember that although you have the right to remain silent, lying to the police can get you in more trouble. In many states, providing a false name or identification can result in serious jail or prison time.

If you are stopped while on foot

If a cop has a reasonable suspicion that you are engaged in illegal activity, he may stop you for questioning. At that time, the cop may "pat you down" to check for a concealed weapon. Do not resist, but it is your right to let the cop know that you do not consent to a further search.

Ask the cop if you are under arrest. Do not admit to any illegal activity. Do not complain or use profanity. Keep your cool! Do not run or resist, even if you believe you are being unfairly or unlawfully harassed. This could lead to your arrest.

If you are in your house

If the police come to your home and ask to enter YOU DO NOT HAVE TO ALLOW THEM IN unless they have a warrant that has been signed by a judge. You have a right to see the warrant. You have a right to read it.

In limited situations, the police may enter a home without a warrant. This is only where there are certain "exigent circumstances." These exigent circumstances include where the police are in "hot pursuit" of a suspect, or where they have probable cause to believe that a person is in immediate danger. If the police enter without a warrant, do not physically confront them, but make it clear that you are not consenting to their entry, or to a search of you or your home.

If you are arrested

First and foremost, SHUT UP! Everyone knows that they have the right to remain silent, meaning the right to refuse to answer questions. Yet, believe it or not, very few people exercise this right. More people get themselves in trouble by trying to talk their way out of it than you would believe. Tell the police your name and address, and NOTHING ELSE.

Ask to speak to an attorney. Tell the police that you have nothing to say until you have had an opportunity to speak to an attorney. If they tell you things will go easier on you if you just talk to them, they are lying!

Within a reasonable time after your arrest, you have the right to make a phone call. You may call an attorney, family member, or bail bondsman. The police may not listen to your call.

Do not make any decision (about pleading guilty or trying to negotiate a deal with the police) until you have spoken to an attorney. If you can't afford an attorney, tell the judge at your arraignment that you would like to have an attorney appointed to represent you.

For more quick advice on what to do if you are stopped by the police, check out our "Stopped By A Cop DO's and DON'T's"