businesswoman arrested

Busting Myths: Understanding Your Rights During Arrest

Encounters with the police can stress you, often leading to unnecessary escalations. It is up to the police to prevent escalations during police encounters. You should know that it’s not always a given that police officers will behave in a way that protects your safety or respects your rights, even if you have emphasized them.

Therefore, understanding your rights during an arrest is essential. Still, staying calm and not showing hostility is vital to reduce your risk during any police encounter or arrest. In this article, we’re busting myths concerning your rights during an arrest.

What are Your Rights When Stopped or Pulled Over by the Police in Public?

An arrest may follow after being stopped or pulled over by police in public. Here’s how to handle the situation:

When approached by the police, don’t run or resist. Instead, stay calm and keep your hands where the officers can see them. At this point, you already have rights, which include:

  • The right to remain silent, which you must tell the police that you plan to use it. Therefore, you don’t have to say where you are coming from, where you are going, what you’re doing, and your immigration status. In some states, you must provide your name, age, and address, or you can get arrested if you refuse.
  • If you are in your vehicle, you don’t have to get out, but the police may want to see if you have a concealed weapon. It’s best to comply if asked to avoid escalating the situation. A passenger can ask to leave with police consent.
  • Don’t lie to the police if asked a question, even if you’ve done nothing wrong. Lying is a crime. Prefer to use your right to remain silent.
  • You can volunteer information about something you have witnessed but are not required to do so. When answering questions, you are waiving your right to remain silent.
  • If the police suspect you’re carrying a weapon, they may pat you down, but you don’t have to consent to them searching you or your belongings. The officer may continue against your will. Making an objection before or during the search can help protect your rights later in case of a legal proceeding. An unwarranted search you didn’t consent to may lead to a dismissal, even if the police find something incriminating because it goes against the Fourth Amendment.
  • When police stop you in your car, they can search your vehicle if they see something that makes them believe they are in imminent danger or evidence of a possible crime. However, you can decline a search of your glove compartment or trunk. They may search if they suspect you have a weapon in the glove compartment. If you consent to a search, you have waived your right. On the other hand, if you haven’t agreed to it, any evidence they find cannot be used against you.
  • Once the officers complete their search, ask them if you can leave. If they say you cannot go, you must remain calm.
  • If they place you under arrest, do not resist because it is a crime in many states. However, you have a right to know why they are arresting you.
  • Reiterate that you wish to remain silent without explaining and immediately ask for a lawyer before signing anything or saying anything, even if you are innocent. They must allow you to make a local call to your lawyer and are not allowed to listen. If police arrest a minor, they must contact the parent or guardian.
  • If you feel your rights were violated at any point, note all the details, including the officers’ badge numbers, names, and patrol car details, so that you can file a misconduct claim. The officers cannot refuse to give you the details.

Can You Take a Recording During Interactions?

According to Rocket Lawyer, yes, you have the right to take pictures or make a video recording of actions by law enforcement in any public place, even if they don’t concern you personally. However, you cannot interfere with their duties. In some states, you cannot record sound without getting the subjects’ consent.

Police officers need a valid warrant before asking you to delete images or videos or ask you to relinquish your phone. If the police insist on taking your device or tell you to stop recording, inform them of your rights, but don’t let the situation intensify. Rather, comply, and you can then report police misconduct later.

Understanding Your Rights During Arrest

When arresting you, the police may read your Miranda rights to you. Even if they don’t say the Miranda warning immediately, you still retain the right to remain silent.

Let’s take a closer look at your rights:

Your right to remain silent means you have no obligation to answer any questions, including:

  • Where are you traveling to or traveling from
  • What you are doing there
  • Where you live
  • Where you were born
  • If you are a U.S. citizen, or how you entered the country.

You can exercise this by simply saying you want to remain silent. During interrogation, when you invoke your rights, questioning must cease until you can see your attorney and have him present.

If you have waived your rights, you can still change your mind during the interrogation by pleading the Fifth Amendment, protecting yourself from self-incrimination. Confessions made before you have been Mirandized can be used as evidence in court.

You have the right to an attorney or a government-appointed attorney, meaning you have a right to legal representation. After your arrest, the police must let you make a call to your lawyer. You can ask for a public defender if you can’t afford one. Moreover, the police may not listen when you call your lawyer but can listen when the call is to another person.

When making an arrest, the police officer will handcuff you and conduct an on-the-spot search. You will get transported to a local jail for processing, which means getting you identified, fingerprinted, photographed, and giving you the citation with your charge and the date of your court appearance. You may receive more than one citation, depending on the number of charges.

In some states, juveniles do not have to answer any questions unless they have a parent or guardian present.

Before bail gets set, you may need to stay in lockup overnight or over a weekend. You may also get a release on your own recognizance after signing a paper promising to appear at the hearing. You may also get released without charges.

What About Illegal Detention?

If you get arrested without probable cause, you can file a police misconduct claim or contact a civil rights legal defense organization once you’re released. Don’t argue or desist during the arrest to avoid an escalation, additional charges, or difficulty asserting your rights later.

Tips for Exercising Your Rights

  • Remain calm and don’t argue with the officers.
  • Be respectful when interacting with police and comply with their instructions.
  • If they ask to search you, demonstrate that you understand your rights and politely decline if you aren’t comfortable.
  • Ask for an explanation for any detention or arrest.
  • Invoke your right to remain silent after asking to see a lawyer or call one on your behalf.
  • Note all interaction details, like badge numbers, patrol car numbers, etc., in case you need them later for a misconduct claim.
  • Know that you can record police actions in public places, although some states may require consent for audio.
  • Understand your rights before any interaction with law enforcement personnel.

Knowing and understanding your rights is essential during arrest or any other encounters with law enforcement officers to avoid incriminating yourself and protect yourself from possible police misconduct.

Contact a civil rights lawyer immediately in case of an unlawful arrest or detention. Understanding all your legal options to protect yourself during a potentially stressful situation is important.

Final Take

Understanding your constitutional rights and responsibilities can help you with any impromptu encounters with the police.


What are my rights during an arrest?

During an arrest, you have the right to remain silent and have a lawyer present. You can also ask for a public defender if you cannot afford a lawyer. You cannot be subjected to an unlawful detention or search without reasonable suspicion.

Can I record police officers?

Generally, yes, but it is important to check the laws in your state before recording, as some states may require the subject’s consent before recording sound. Knowing your rights before interacting with law enforcement personnel is best.

What should I do if I’m wrongfully arrested?

If you feel wrongfully arrested, invoke your right to remain silent and contact a lawyer immediately. Don’t try to argue or resist the arrest. Keep notes on all interaction details in case you need them for a misconduct claim later.

What should I do if I’m subjected to an illegal detention?

If you’re being detained without probable cause, contact a civil rights legal defense organization or file a police misconduct claim once released. Invoke your right to remain silent and stay calm, as arguing may lead to additional charges or difficulty asserting your rights later. You can also sue for damages or wrongful arrest if your constitutional rights were violated.