Encounters with police can cause anxiety and dread, even if you have not done anything wrong. However, not all encounters are the result of something you did wrong.
In any encounter, it is important that you understand your rights because law enforcement officers have specific procedures when they interact with you depending on the encounter type.
Rights during an investigation
During an investigation, you have the right to not incriminate yourself. However, you cannot legally knowingly lie to an officer. Therefore, you can choose not to answer questions. You can also walk away if you are not detained, which requires reasonable suspicion of an illegal act. Although they can frisk you, an officer cannot search your property unless there is evidence of a weapon or other illegal item.
Rights after an arrest
A law enforcement officer cannot arrest you without probable cause. However, if an officer arrests you, you have the right to representation, and if you cannot afford to pay for your own attorney, you can get a public defender. You also have the right to speak with your lawyer privately. You also can remain silent to prevent self-incrimination. You should also receive a phone call, but they can listen to your conversation.
Rights when you initiate contact
You may find that you need to contact law enforcement for some reason. In this case, you can refuse to provide your identity. You can also refuse to speak with the officers and walk away. A consensual stop is one in which you are free to leave, and you can ask the officer if you are. However, these encounters can become investigatory.
During police encounters, remain calm and professional, and always remember your rights. You should also write down your experience, especially if an officer violated your rights.