Complying with the police is not only critical for protecting your legal rights, it could prevent you from getting seriously hurt (or worse). When the police stop and question you, even if you think they’re doing so wrongfully, it’s always best to comply. (Complying doesn’t mean speaking with the police. You should still exercise your right to remain silent.) Let’s go over four safe ways to comply with police.
Whenever dealing with the police, safety should be a primary concern. One wrong move can quickly escalate a situation into something very dangerous, and also undermine your future criminal or civil case in court.
So here’s how you can keep yourself safe and comply with police.
You should obey all police orders, even if you think the police are wrong.
If you don’t comply, you could be opening yourself up to a resisting arrest charge.
When you resist arrest, you give the officer a legitimate reason to arrest you, even if the original arrest was baseless. That’s because resisting arrest is a crime in itself.
By obeying the police officer’s orders, you can avoid giving them a legitimate reason to arrest you. You can also preserve a potential case against the police for wrongful arrest.
In short, obey the police and follow their orders.
Stay cool, calm, and comply with the officer’s orders. Be respectful, even if you’re being disrespected.
Even if you might disagree, don’t argue with the officer.
Never threaten an officer.
You should do your best to remain calm and composed. You’d hate to give the police reason to use force because you are not cooperating or appear to pose a threat.
This may not be easy. It is often very natural to be scared, humiliated, or simply angry when confronted by the police.
But this is not about right and wrong. This is about survival, and maintaining your legal rights. If you escalate the situation by not remaining calm, you are putting yourself at physical and legal risk.
Remember, police have the guns, the backup, and the ability to take away your freedom and your life. All you have is your self-control. Don’t lose it.
Do not give the police a reason or excuse to hurt you.
And remember: you’re probably on camera — either police bodycamera or squad car camera — so a judge or jury will likely see the video. If you are clearly being aggressive or uncooperative, that won’t look good in court.
Nothing is more threatening to an officer than a suspect’s hands, because they can hold weapons.
A police officer is trained to assume the worst when a person doesn’t show his or her hands. This is because an officer has no idea if that person is reaching for a knife, a gun, or something else that could cause immediate harm.
Even if you don’t actually have a weapon, there’s no way and officer can be sure. Don’t put in an officer in a position where he or she has to guess.
When dealing with the police, always show your hands. You are risking your own physical safety if you do not.
So make sure your hands are visible at all times.
History is full of police officers who justified their use of deadly force by claiming that the suspect made a quick or “furtive” movement.
Much like showing your hands at all times, avoiding quick moves gives officers less reason to believe that you pose a threat to the officers or others. This makes them less likely to use force against you as well.
Remember, police officers are trained to assume the worst. If you make a quick movement, they will often assume that you are going for a weapon or are otherwise putting others in danger.
Move slowly and predictably. If you’re going to remove something from a pocket or a glove compartment, make sure you tell the officer what you’re doing. In fact, make sure the officer approves it first.
Clearly communicating your movements before you make them is a good idea. But even if you tell an officer that you are going to make a move, still make sure that you do so slowly. And if the officer tells you to not to make a move, don’t make the move.
Don’t give the police a reason to hurt you. A quick move can be an equally quick way to escalate the situation and put you in greater danger.
The more compliant and respectful you are, the more likely the encounter will not end in violence, and the more likely you will remain safe and alive. This should always be your first priority.
The more cooperative you are, the stronger your case will be in criminal court if you’re arrested, or in any excessive force or false arrest lawsuit you file later on.
Anything that even looks like physical struggle on your part will help to justify an officer’s use of force against you. The more you fight and the less you cooperate, the more force the officer is allowed to use. This obviously increases your pain and chance of injury, but it also undermines any excessive force claim you may want to file in court later, and it will provide probable cause for your arrest.
In short, there is nothing to be gained by failing to comply with an officer’s orders. But there is a lot to lose.
Save your battles for the courtroom, not for the heat of the moment.
By complying with police, you can avoid getting yourself seriously injured. You can also better preserve your legal case if the police wrongfully violated your rights.
But, before you can get to court, safety should be your primary concern. If you don’t comply with police, you are actively jeopardizing your physical safety.
Remember, some quick strategies for complying with the police and staying safe include:
If you remember those rules, you’ll be in a much safer position, one where you can more easily launch a case against wrongful police conduct.
Want more tips on how to comply with police? Check out this quick guide on best practices for dealing with police.
If you believe you or someone you know has been the victim of false arrest, police brutality, excessive force, or any other legal or constitutional violation, contact Chicago civil rights attorney Jordan Marsh for a free consultation at (312) 401-5510, or by email at email@example.com.
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