What to Do When Approached by Police

Your Encounter With Police

Sure, a police officer is permitted to approach you in a public place and ask you questions, if he/she has a reasonable suspicion that you are involved in criminal activity.2010-03-28-Criminal-Arrest-iStock-photo

Usually, the officer will ask your name and address, ask for identification and ask you what you are doing. Of course, you need not answer. Your right to remain silent is written into the U.S. Constitution and the N.Y.S. Constitution.

From this moment until the end of your encounter with the police, what the police officer can do and cannot do is closely regulated by current laws. If at some point you are arrested, your lawyer will have the opportunity to challenge the legality of each and every action the police officer took during the encounter.

For example:

  1. In most circumstances, if a police officer arrives at your home with a warrant to arrest you, he may not break down any door or break through any window to gain entrance to apprehend you. The officer must first notify you that he has a warrant for your arrest (unless the officer reasonably fears you might flee or destroy evidence). Thus, if proper procedures were not followed, your arrest might be illegal and the case might be dismissed.
  2. In most circumstances, a police officer may not arrest you without a warrant unless: the officer has probable cause to believe that you committed a crime. An officer cannot arrest you based merely on a “hunch” or merely because “you look guilty”, then search you and find evidence of a crime. An arrest of this kind would be illegal and the case would be dismissed.
  3. In most circumstances, any evidence recovered by police cannot be used against you in criminal court if the evidence was taken by police unlawfully. Thus, if the police did not follow proper procedures in Example #1 or in Example #2 above, and as a result the police discovered evidence such as a loaded, unlicensed weapon, then the weapon or any other evidence could not be used against you at trial if proper procedures were not followed, because in those circumstances the evidence was taken unlawfully.

What Should You Do?

You should not, under any circumstances, use force to resist any intrusion by police. Even if you believe that the police are acting in violation of your rights, do not resist. Police Use of Force: If you resist an arrest, the police are allowed to use all necessary means to arrest you, including force. Leave it to your lawyer to challenge the lawfulness of the police intrusion into your life.

As soon as your encounter with police ends, call your attorney and schedule an appointment. Then, with a pen and pad in hand, sit down and write careful notes of the entire police encounter. Document the entire incident, including:

  • At the top of the page, address your notes: “To My Attorney”
  • Write down the date, time and location
  • Write down the names of any witnesses
  • Write a moment-by-moment chronology of events
  • Write precisely what were the first words spoken, the next, and so on.

Bring your detailed notes to your attorney’s office as soon as possible. Remember, the sooner you retain an attorney, the greater the chances of a favorable result.

At Martin Colin, P.C., our experienced criminal defense attorneys zealously assert your rights as a free citizen guaranteed under State and Federal laws. We protect you from incriminating investigation and defend you from criminal prosecution.

If you suspect that you are the target of a criminal investigation, give us a call toll free at (914) 771 7711 or use the ‘Contact Us’ form on this website.