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Rights during police encounters in our criminal justice system


The criminal justice system provides rights to individuals who are stopped by the police or arrested in Maryland. A person's conduct could also harm their criminal defense and have long-term consequences.

Individuals have the right to remain silent when stopped by the police. The suspect should stay calm and keep their hands visible to the police but should not argue, resist or obstruct them. A person does not have to consent to a search of themselves or their belongings. A suspect may ask if they are free to leave and if permission is granted, they may calmly and silently leave.

Police may not enter a home unless they have a warrant executed by a judge which allows them to enter the home of the person listed if they believe they the person is in the structure. Individuals should ask police to display the warrant, and police may only search the areas and items listed in that document. A person may remain silent; if they choose to speak, they should step outside and close the door.

When police pull over a car, the driver should stop the vehicle in a safe place as fast as possible. The driver should turn off the ignition, turn on the internal light and open the window partway. The driver should show police their license, registration and insurance proof when they request it.

If asked, a motorist can refuse consent to a search. However, police may search a vehicle if they suspect that it contains evidence of a crime. Drivers and passengers may remain silent. Passengers can leave after asking for permission.

A person should not resist an arrest. Suspects should remain silent and ask for an attorney. A person also has the right to make a local phone call, and police cannot listen if the call is made to a lawyer. All papers should be completely read. Nothing should be signed, said or decided without conferring with an attorney.

If people believe their rights are being violated, they should not argue or resist. They should write down everything they remember including the police officer's badge and patrol car numbers and their law enforcement agency. Information about witnesses should be obtained. Photographs should be taken of any injuries. Like other matters relating to the arrest, an experienced defense attorney should be consulted.

Source: American Civil Liberties Union, "Know your rights," accessed on May 19, 2017

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