Being confronted by law enforcement for questioning or for a search of your home, car, or person can be stressful, embarrassing, and even dangerous. It is important to know your rights and how to handle these situations. That way, even if you are charged with a crime as a result of police questioning or a search of your property a qualified North Carolina lawyer may be able to assist you with suppressing the evidence in court.
If you are stopped for questioning:
Try your best to stay calm and keep your hands visible. Do not run, argue, resist, obstruct, or make any sudden moves. This goes even if you are innocent and the police are violating your rights. The satisfaction of seeing them held accountable won’t fix serious injuries or bring you back to life. If the officers tell you to walk to the side, or sit on the curb, or submit yourself to arrest, you should do it. After that, the second most important thing to remember is you have the right to remain silent. If you wish to remain silent, say so out loud. Unlike some other states you do not have to give your name or produce identification if you are stopped by police, unless you are stopped while driving a motor vehicle. That means if you are stopped while you are walking down the street, sitting on a bench, or even a passenger in a motor vehicle, you don’t have to say a word or produce any identification. You do not have to consent to any search of yourself, your car, or your belongings. Law enforcement may “pat down” upon stopping you. You should never physically resist law enforcement, but you have the right to refuse your consent to this and any other search. If you do give your consent, it can harm your rights and your lawyer’s ability to defend your case in court if anything incriminating is found.
If you are asked to give an interview, or come in for an interview:
Maybe law enforcement calls you on the telephone, or approaches you on the street or in your workplace to give an interview or come in for an interview. You do not have to do so, and generally should not do so without the assistance of a lawyer.
Oftentimes being asked to give an interview or come in for an interview is a prelude to very serious charges being asserted against someone. It could be you. Law enforcement does not have to tell you anything about their investigation, what the stakes are for you, and the best advice you should follow. Law enforcement is allowed to lie about the purpose of their questions, the target of their investigation, what the evidence shows, and what their intentions are. They are allowed to trick you into incriminating yourself and your loved ones. You may think you are smarter than law enforcement, and you may be right generally speaking. But chances are you are not experienced at interrogations like they are, and you don’t know what they already know from other sources. Doctors, lawyers, engineers, business executives and even nuclear weapons scientists and rocket scientists have all been convicted of very, very serious felonies from thinking they were smart enough to “talk their way out of it.” They weren’t.
If you are asked to give an interview or come in for an interview by law enforcement, you should not agree until you have consulted with a qualified lawyer. Remember: You have the right to remain silent. You cannot be compelled to speak to law enforcement and you cannot be punished for refusing to speak to law enforcement.
If law enforcement comes to your home:
If law enforcement comes to your home, hearing that knock on the door and seeing them outside can be terrifying. It’s important to remain calm and know your rights.
If law enforcement announces they have a warrant, ask them to slip it under the door or hold it up to a window so you can see what it says. Make sure it actually identifies your home, and carefully look at what it says about where and what the law enforcement officers are allowed to search so you can discuss with your lawyer later. If the warrant is an arrest warrant, then police generally can come in if they have reason to believe the person is inside. You should not argue or prevent police from entering in that case, but you should announce out loud that you do not consent to their entry and you do not consent to any searches. A warrant of removal or deportation (an ICE warrant) does not allow law enforcement to enter a home without consent. If you look at the warrant and it is an ICE warrant, do not open the door, and ask the law enforcement officers to leave. If they force their way in, you should never resist or it could make a bad situation worse. A qualified lawyer can help you hold law enforcement accountable if they violate your rights.
If police do not have a warrant, and they “just want to talk,” you do not have to open the door or let them in. You have the right to remain silent. You do not have to identify yourself, tell them who is inside, or answer any questions. If they ask you to come outside, do not do it. Once you’re outside they may be able to legally search and arrest you, although without a warrant they could not legally touch you inside of your home.
If law enforcement asks to talk to you or search your property, that is an intrusion that could lead to serious consequences if you do not protect your rights. You should contact a qualified lawyer right away if you believe you have been victimized by law enforcement or if you are facing charges from unlawful searches or questioning.