Anything you say can and will be used against you in court of law.
When a police officer asks questions, it could cause problems for the police officer and YOU. Most of the time there is a reason why the officer is asking you such questions even though it may seem to you at the time that there is not a reason.
The officer may be investigating a complaint phoned into the police by someone in the neighborhood. The officer may have been informed by the police radio that a crime has just been committed in the area. For one reason or another, you may be the person he or she suspects may be involved. You may have knowledge that will help the officer in the investigation, or the officer may think you are in need of assistance or help.
The officer has a responsibility and an obligation to obtain pertinent information to resolve any calls or incidents that he or she is involved in. Part of the investigative process is to ask questions that are relevant to the information the officer has received regarding the assignment. If you overreact to the officer's questions, you may create an even more serious situation.
We will attempt to explain what rights you have, things you should remember and what you can expect when a police officer starts asking you questions, but remember once you have given your name and address to the officer (and shown your drivers license, registration , and insurance information if driving) DO NOT MAKE ANY STATEMENTS TO THE POLICE UNTIL YOU HAVE TALKED TO AN ATTORNEY.
IF YOU ARE STOPPED BY THE POLICE IN YOUR CAR...
While you are driving a car, if a police officer has reasonable suspicion or probable cause to believe that a violation of the Vehicle Code has been committed or a crime has occurred, you may be pulled over. You will probably be asked to show your drivers license, the registration to the vehicle, and proof that the vehicle is insured. You must comply with these requests. The best thing to do in this situation is to pull over, stay cool and calm and remain in your car, unless told to do otherwise by the police officer.
If you are stopped at night, turn on your dome light and show the officer that there is nothing wrong, or any reason to fear for his or her safety. It is best not to make any sudden movement or do anything that would give the officer a reason to search further. Having your light on and keeping your hands on the steering wheel will usually put the officer's mind at ease. Remember the officer cannot read your mind, he or she does not know if you are a law-abiding citizen or a criminal, and unfortunately, for his or her safety, must assume the worse case scenario at first. Only, when you are asked for your ID, should you go about getting it.
If you are stopped because the officer thinks you are operating your vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs (D.U.I.), the officer may ask you to submit to a test of you blood to determine you blood alcohol concentration. YOU MAY ALWAYS REFUSE TO SUBMIT TO A BLOOD TEST. IF YOU DO, THE OFFICER MAY REQUEST PENNDOT SUSPEND YOUR LICENSE FOR ONE YEAR. THE PENALTY FOR REFUSAL IS MUCH LESS THAN THE PENALTIES TO D.U.I. THE OFFICER MUST HAVE PROBABLE CAUSE TO ARREST YOU FOR D.U.I. BEFORE REQUESTING THE BLOOD TEST FOR THE SUSPENSION TO HOLD UP. YOU HAVE A RIGHT TO APPEAL THAT AND ANY OTHER PENNDOT SUSPENSION TO THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS.
At this point, you may start question what you were doing that caused you to get stopped, but that is as far as you should take it. Do not make any admissions. There is a chance that the officer will write you a ticket or warning notice for a traffic violation. When the officer asks you to sign the ticket or warning notice, it is not an admission of guilt, you are simply acknowledging that you received it. If you refuse to sign, the officer will still issue the ticket but will mark it Refused. If you feel that you are getting a ticket for something you did not do or for something that is not fair, you should take your protest to court and explain your case to the Judge. Just because the officer gives you a ticket, does not automatically mean that you are guilty, or will be found guilty, or that you will have to pay a fine. Remember, in America, you are innocent until proven guilty.
A police officer may ask you to stop for no reason (which you may refuse), but to order you to stop they must have a reason (probable cause) to stop and ask you some questions.
When the officer approaches you should remain cool and calm. There are many factors that a police officer will take into consideration when he is observing you and thinks you may be breaking the law or doing something suspicious. He may have a reason to stop you other than a criminal investigation. Remember, you do not have to answer questions except for your identity.
If the police knock at your door and ask to come into your home, you do not have to let them in unless they have a warrant that has been signed by a judge, or under emergency circumstances, or the officer is in pursuit of a suspect. Ask to see the warrant. If it is an ARREST WARRANT, make sure that you look at the name on the warrant to be sure the police have the right person. If it is a SEARCH WARRANT, make sure it is for your specific address and check to see what is listed on the warrant to be searched for in your home or location. The warrant gives the officer(s) the legal right to seize the listed property on the warrant.
The police may also search after you consent. Again, you should speak to an attorney before consenting to a search.
IF THE OFFICER SAYS YOU WILL BE ARRESTED IF YOU DO NOT SIGN A CONSENT, THE CONSENT MAY NOT BE VOLUNTARY AND MAY NOT HOLD UP IN COURT. DO NOT SIGN ANYTHING YOU DO NOT UNDERSTAND OR DO NOT AGREE TO. IT WILL BE USED AGAINST YOU. If you have questions, call an attorney. If you object to their request to search, be sure to make it clear that you do not agree to any kind of search. They may also search when there is an emergency situation (for example, someone screaming for help inside your home) or when they are chasing you or someone else into your home (hot pursuit).
If the police do not have a warrant, you may, but do not have to let them in, UNLESS they demand to come in. Perhaps you can settle this matter at the door, if they do insist on coming in over your objections then:
- Ask to see identification or a police badge.
- Let them in only after they demand to come in.
- If you object, then make sure you tell them that you DO NOT consent to any search.
- Remember the badge numbers and the names of the officer(s). Write it all down.
NEVER PHYSICALLY RESIST A POLICE OFFICER EVEN IF YOU FEEL HE IS TREATING YOU UNFAIRLY. CONTACT A LAWYER WHO WILL PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS!
- You have the right to remain silent and to not consent to a search. Contact an attorney BEFORE you give up those important rights!
- It is best to be cool and calm and identify yourself.
- If an unmarked car signals you to pull over at night and you are not sure the person is a Police Officer, put your 4-way flashers and dome light on and slowly drive to the nearest well lit public area.
- DO NOT THREATEN OR TOUCH THE OFFICERS.
- Under Pennsylvania law, you may not use force to resist a legal or illegal arrest. Remember you have the right to contest the validity of your arrest later on in court.
- If you are given a ticket, you have a right to a hearing in front of the District Justice, if you do not agree with the District Justice=s decision you have a right to appeal.
- If you are arrested you have the right to a prompt preliminary arraignment, in which the District Justice will decide what bond you must post, if any.
- You may refuse to take a blood test. Doing so may cause you to lose your license only if the officers had probable cause to arrest you for driving under the influence before the forcing you to submit to a blood test.