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What Are My Rights When Being Stopped by the Police?

Just about everyone dreads being stopped by the police. Even if you are 100 percent certain that you have done nothing wrong, violated no laws, and have nothing incriminating on you, interacting with the police can be stressful. It helps to know what your rights are in such a situation. With that in mind, a Murfreesboro criminal defense lawyer at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby explains your rights when being stopped by the police.

Understanding Your Right to Remain Silent

Police shows made for television or the big screen show a law enforcement officer reading someone his/her “Miranda” rights.

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These rights begin with “you have the right to remain silent.” Your right to remain silent is rooted in the 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which reads, in pertinent part:

“No person shall be…compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself…”

While nothing about the law is ever as simple as it sounds, this right is relatively straight-forward. You have the right to not answer questions beyond questions aimed at identifying you. You do not have to explain where you are going or from where you are coming. You do not have to explain anything to a police officer; however, if you intend to assert your right to remain silent, it is in your best interest to respectively tell the officer of your intent. The officer may not be happy about it, but it is your constitutional right.

Search and Seizure

Your rights regarding the search of your person, vehicle, or home are far more complicated than your right to remain silent. The 4th Amendment covers searches and seizures, stating as follows:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

In general, the 4th Amendment stands for the proposition that a search and seizure cannot be conducted without a warrant. That is not always the case though. Your home remains the most protected when it comes to a search; however, there are exceptions to the warrant requirement for your home as well, such as a search incident to arrest, exigent circumstances, and the plain view doctrine. To search your vehicle or person, the police must have probable cause and/or a reasonable suspicion, respectively, of criminal activity to search without a warrant. Giving consent is always an exception to the warrant requirement for any search, which is why you should not consent to any search.

Citizenship Questions and Issues

Another area of much confusion has to do with the citizenship status of someone stopped by the police. Contrary to what the police may lead you to believe, in most situations you are not required to prove your citizenship or lawful status in the country. This applies whether you have been stopped by a county sheriff’s deputy or an ICE agent. Likewise, you are not required to answer questions about where you were born or how/when you entered the United States.

Your Right to an Attorney

Found in the 6th Amendment, your right to counsel says that:

“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall…have the assistance of counsel for his defense.”

While you have the right to contact a private attorney at any time and for any reason, your right to a court-appointed attorney does not apply until you have been charged with a criminal offense or you make your initial court appearance. 

Contact a Murfreesboro Criminal Defense Lawyer 

If you have additional questions or concerns about your rights when being stopped by the police, consult with an experienced Murfreesboro criminal defense lawyer at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby as soon as possible. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your free appointment.


Stan Bennett