Unless you are careful and knowledgeable about your rights, a run-in with law enforcement may mean big trouble. Understanding your rights gives you a chance to exercise them and protect yourself when necessary. It could also mean the difference between you facing criminal penalties and you carrying on with your life as normal.
The rights you have vary based on where you are when law enforcement officials stop you, so it is critical that you understand how they differ when you are in public, in your vehicle or at your home.
Your rights while in public
Say you are out in the streets and authorities ask questions about who you are, what you are doing or where you are traveling. Recognize that you do not have to answer these questions. You also do not have to answer questions about citizenship or your country of origin, and you do not have to consent to a search of your person, either. However, if law enforcement officials think you have a weapon on you, they may be able to lawfully pat you down.
Your rights when stopped in your car
You may not know that you also have the right to remain silent when authorities pull you over in a car. Drivers and passengers both have this right. Make sure to remain calm and respectful during these interactions, however. If you choose to exercise the right to remain silent, make sure to tell the law enforcement officer who stopped you that you are doing so.
Your rights while at home
If authorities come knocking at your door, know that you do not have to let them in unless they have a warrant. If they tell you they have a warrant, ask them to pass it to you under the door. If it is valid, know that you have the right to remain silent while they search your home. It may serve you well to avoid speaking with them at all until you have a chance to secure representation.