Being pulled over or stopped by a police officer can leave anyone with a sense of unease. As countless stories of police brutality and misconduct have made headlines in recent years, more people are wondering what their rights are if they have one of these encounters.

No matter the circumstance, de-escalation is not the responsibility of the citizen. While not every officer behaves unethically, that doesn’t mean all of them play by the rules.

The rights of those approached

Those who face such an encounter should know their rights:

  • They have the right to remain silent: Those who get pulled over often do not have to answer any questions. Police may ask them where they are going, what they are doing and where they live. If someone gets stopped in Florida, they often have to give the officer their name. If someone is a passenger in a vehicle, they may be able to leave the scene if they get the officer’s permission.
  • They don’t have to consent to searches: In most cases, those who get stopped do not have to agree to a self or vehicle search, unless the officer suspects someone has a weapon. People should know just because they refuse a search does not mean the officer won’t conduct one. However, resisting a search can help the driver’s case if they decide to take legal action.
  • They don’t have to tell police where they were born: Regardless if someone is a U.S. citizen or not, people typically don’t have to tell police where they were born or how they got into the country. However, different rules may apply if one gets stopped at an international border or if they have specific nonimmigrant visas.

People of all backgrounds deserve protection

No matter one’s race, age or demographic, anyone can fall victim to police mistreatment. Those whose situation has escalated and resulted in severe consequences shouldn’t assume they’re powerless. The 14th Amendment and other laws can protect citizens in legal proceedings.