Things Cops Do That Are Illegal: What a Police Officer Can and Cannot Do
August 4, 2023 | Ahmed & Sukaram, Attorneys at Law
A common misconception is that all actions and statements made by police officers are always lawful, but this isn’t necessarily true. Like anyone else, officers can make mistakes or even knowingly break the law. They may sometimes overstep their authority or violate your rights out of ignorance or even intentionally.
As a possible defendant and a member of society, knowing what police can and cannot do is vital to ensure your rights are not violated. Understanding these limitations can help prevent incidents of exploitation from happening.
If unlawful actions take place, knowing that they are unlawful will allow you to report it to your criminal defense lawyer immediately so they can begin building your legal defense.
Cops Can’t Search You For No Reason
Cops can’t just search you, your car, or your home without good reason. They either need a warrant, or the circumstances surrounding the search must be considered an exception to the warrant requirement.
For example, a police officer can stop and frisk someone if they have reasonable suspicion to believe they are engaged in criminal activity and are armed and dangerous; a warrant is not necessary.
If there is no warrant or exception present and they search you or your property anyway, your attorney can file a motion to suppress any evidence found during the illegal search and seizure. This is because anything they found should be considered “fruit of the poisonous tree.”
Cops Can Lie to You
In most situations, police officers are allowed to lie to suspects. They might use this tactic during interrogations or investigations in order to elicit confessions or obtain valuable information about an alleged crime.
For example, a police officer may pretend to have more evidence than they really do, like fingerprints linking you to a weapon that was used to assault someone, or they might make up fake eyewitnesses who they claim saw you steal something.
The smartest thing to do when being questioned by the police is to not say anything and ask for a lawyer right away. You are not required to talk or answer any questions without your legal counsel. By staying quiet, you can avoid saying something that might harm your case later on.
Cops Cannot Force You To Stop Video Recording (Usually)
Police officers usually can’t make you stop video recording. It’s your right to take photos and videos of things that people can easily see when you’re in public places where you’re allowed to be. You have the right to record federal buildings, transportation areas, and government officials doing their job, which includes the police.
However, if what you are doing interferes with or obstructs police work and their investigation, they may have the right to tell you to stop recording.
Cops Can Order You Out of the Car at a Traffic Stop
During a traffic stop, cops can tell you or your passengers to get out of the car. The main thing to remember here is that the traffic stop must be legitimate; it can’t just be that they want to pull you over or have a hunch that something might be off.
However, avoid arguing with the officer or refusing their orders, as this could make things worse. If you feel that they treated you wrongly, talk to a lawyer soon after.
What To Do if the Cops Do Something Unlawful
If you suspect misconduct by the police, there are several steps to follow:
Regardless of feelings or emotions in the moment, try your best to keep a level head and refrain from engaging in disputes with officers on the scene. This doesn’t imply acceptance of their behavior, it’s just the smart thing to do to protect yourself.
Write Down Details
After things have calmed down and you’re safe, write down every detail about the occurrence as soon as possible. Include specifics such as names, badge numbers if visible, and other information/events which took place during this encounter.
Speak With a Lawyer
Finally, speak with a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible after the interaction occurs. They can provide legal advice and help you determine next steps.
Never initiate any kind of altercations, and do your best not to disrespect the police – even if you think they are behaving unlawfully. If you have any questions or need to speak with a lawyer, don’t hesitate to contact Ahmed & Sukaram, Attorneys at Law, to schedule a free consultation with a criminal defense lawyer.
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