From the Blog

What should I do when stopped by the police?

Give the national attention on policing today, it makes sense to keep in mind what to do when you are stopped by the police. While the vast and overwhelming majority of all police/public interactions are completely safe and benign, keeping a few things in mind is appropriate and reasonable.

Follow these rules

The best, first instinct is to stay calm. If you are calm, it is more likely that everyone involved will be calm. Don’t run, resist, or obstruct the officers. Running, resisting and obstructing will not help your circumstances. Some police officers view running, resisting and obstructing as reasons to use force. Additionally, do not lie or give false documents. Lying or give false documents will compound your problems, raising tensions in an already tense situation. Lastly, keep your hands where the police can see them. Rightly or wrongly, many police are nervous. Hiding your hands won’t help your circumstances.

Remember Your Rights

You have the right to remain silent. Many people remember this right but they forget to exercise it, thinking they can talk themselves out of a ticket or an arrest. If you wish to exercise the right to remain silent, say so out loud. More often than not, people forget the right to remain silent and talk themselves into more trouble. You do not have to consent to a search of yourself or your belongings, but police may pat down your clothing if they suspect a weapon. Refusing consent may not stop the officer from carrying out the search against your will, but can help preserve your rights in any later legal proceeding.

If you are arrested or detained: All of the earlier advice applies. Don’t lie or give false documents. Don’t run, resist or obstruct. Say you wish to remain silent and ask for a lawyer immediately. Don’t give any explanations or excuses. Don’t say anything, sign anything, or make any decisions without a lawyer. If you have been arrested by police, you have the right to make a local phone call. It make take time to get that phone call so be patient. The police cannot listen if you call a lawyer.

If you believe your rights were violated, document everything. Documentation makes a difference.

  • Write down everything you remember, including officers’ names, agencies, car numbers and any other details. Get contact information for witnesses if you can.
  • If you’re injured, seek medical attention immediately. Take color photographs of your injuries immediately. Keep taking color photographs until the injury has completely healed.
  • Seek legal advice and representation immediately.
  • Consider filing a written complaint with the agency’s internal affairs division or civilian complaint board. If you have a lawyer or are consider getting legal representation, speak to your lawyer before filing a complaint. Some police departments have made it hard to file complaints. Consider legal advice beforehand.


If you have a question about what to do if you are stopped by the police or think that your rights have been violated, please feel free to call Attorney John Radshaw in New Haven today at (203) 654-9695. For more information about Attorney Radshaw and his practice, visit