The recent news concerning Sandra Bland, who died while in police custody in Texas, and other police altercations has led many Americans to wonder what legal rights they possess when being stopped by an officer.
Was Ms. Bland obeying the law or breaking the law? Were the officer’s actions legal or was he using unnecessary force?
As we await the final outcome of this case, it’s critical that Americans are properly informed about their rights when being stopped by an officer.
You’re protected by the Fifth Amendment: Legally, you can’t be punished for refusing to answer a question.
While most of us understand the general meaning of the Fifth Amendment (the right to remain silent), this still remains a question on many civilians’ minds. Typically, the appropriate and safest thing to do is to respond politely to an officer’s questions without excessive description.
However, if you feel uncomfortable revealing specific information, know that you’re legally protected by the Constitution.
After given your ticket or warning, you’re free to leave.
After you’re given your ticket or warning and if the situation has not resulted in a more severe consequence, you are technically and constitutionally allowed to leave. If the conversation or investigation (which is lawful on the officer’s part) begins afterward, the situation has now progressed into a separate occurrence.
You can video record police (sometimes)
Depending upon the state and situation, this is completely legal. Some states have laws that prevent people from recording others without their consent and if your video is obstructing an investigation, you can be arrested. Otherwise, the ability to record police officers has led to some of the most widespread cases across the country including video of a North Charleston, S.C. shooting and police officers responding to a pool party in Texas.