If you are stopped for questioning

  • Stay Calm. Don't run. Don't argue, resist or obstruct the officer even if you are innocent or your rights are being violated. Keep your hands where the officer can see them.
  • Ask if you are free to leave. If the officer says yes, calmly and silently walk away. If you are under arrest, you have a right to know why.
  • You have the right to remain silent and cannot be punished for refusing to answer questions. If you wish to remain silent, tell the officer out loud.
  • Ask if you are required to identify yourself if instructed to do so. Local laws may require you to identify yourself.
  • You do not have to consent to a search of yourself or your belongings, but an officer may "pat down" your clothing if they suspect a weapon. You should not physically resist, but you have the right to refuse consent for any further search.

If you are stopped in your car

  • Stop the car in a safe place as quickly as possible. Turn off the car, turn on the internal light, open the window part way and place your hands on the wheel.
  • Upon request, show your driver's license, registration and proof of insurance.
  • If an officer asks to look inside your car, you can refuse to consent to the search. But if an officer believes your car contains evidence, your car can be searched without your consent.
  • Both drivers and passengers have the right to remain silent. If you are a passenger, you can ask if you are free to leave. If the officer says yes, sit silently or calmly leave.

If police, immigration or FBI agents come to your home

  • You do not have to let them in unless they have certain kinds of warrants.
  • Ask the officer to slip the warrant under the door or hold it up to the window so you can inspect it.
    • A search warrant allows an officer to enter the address listed on the warrant, but officers can only search for the item listed in the location listed.
    • An arrest warrant allows an officer to enter the home of the person listed on the warrant if they believe the person is inside.
    • A warrant of removal or deportation (ICE warrant) does not allow officers to enter a home without consent.
  • Even if the officers have a warrant, you have the right to remain silent. If you choose to speak to the officers, step outside and close the door.

If you are contacted by the FBI

  • If an FBI agent comes to your home or workplace, you do not have to answer any questions. Tell the agent you want to speak to a lawyer first.
  • If you are asked to meet with an FBI agent for an interview, you have the right to say you do not want to be interviewed.
  • If you agree to an interview, have a lawyer present. You do not have to answer any questions you feel uncomfortable answering, and can choose to only answer questions on certain topics.

If you are questioned about your immigration status

  • You have the right to remain silent and do not have to discuss your immigration or citizenship status with police, immigration agents or any other officials. You do not have to answer questions about where you were born, whether you are a U.S. citizen, or how you entered the country.
  • If you are not a U.S. Citizen and an immigration agent requests your immigration papers, you must show them if you have them with you. If you are over 18, carry your immigration documents with you at all times. If you do not have immigration papers, say you want to remain silent.
  • Do not lie about your citizenship status or provide fake documents.

If you are arrested

  • Do not resist arrest, even if you believe the arrest is unfair.
  • Say you wish to remain silent and ask for a lawyer immediately. Don't give any explanations or excuses. If you can't afford a lawyer, one will be provided.

If you are given a court date

  • Remember, you have the right to an attorney and one must be provided to you free of charge if you are facing jail time.
  • Ask the judge if you can be released without bail on bond or have the bail lowered.
Download and distribute our Know Your Rights when Dealing with Law Enforcement flyer to spread the word.

*This guide is meant to serve as basic instruction when interacting with police officers, FBI and immigration agents. This is not legal advice. Be sure to consult a lawyer.

 

Stay informed

ACLU of Missouri is part of a network of affiliates

Learn more about ACLU National