Dealing with the law can be stressful. Everyone has their own run-ins with the cops, and let's face it, not all of them are on the up and up. This guide is here to help navigate those sticky situations and hopefully steer clear of any more trouble. Learn your rights and don't be afraid to use them.

What To Do If You Are Stopped For Questioning

Stay calm. Don’t run. Don’t argue, resist or obstruct the police, even if you are innocent or police are violating your rights. Keep your hands where police can see them.
Ask “Am I free to go?” If they say yes, leave calmly. If they say no, ask to know why by saying, “Can you tell me why you are stopping me?”
You have the right to remain silent. Simply say, "I want to remain silent." You can't get in trouble for not answering questions. However, it might raise some eyebrows if you start talking and then clam up. So, make it a habit to remain silent from the start.
Let the officer know you do not agree with being searched (even though they might do it anyway). Make sure to clearly say, "I don't consent to a search."
If you find yourself getting handed a ticket, give your name and birth date on there and don't forget to sign it. Otherwise, you could end up getting arrested.
Don't disrespect a police officer. Although you have a constitutional right to do so, you can get arrested.
Don't run away or physically resist a pat-down or search. Just say “I do not consent to a search.”
Do not lie. It's 100% better to tell the police you don’t want to talk to them. Say “I wish to remain silent.”
Don't discuss your status with anyone other than a lawyer. Police are legally allowed to lie, intimidate, and bluff.


Stop the car in a safe place as quickly as possible. Turn off the car, turn on the internal light, open the window part way and place your hands on the wheel.
If you were driving then show your license, registration, and proof of insurance when asked. Don't search for your license or registration until asked. It may look as if you are trying to hide something.
Keep your hands in sight on the wheel and let the officer know what you are doing. Say: "I’m going to reach for my license in my back pocket wallet now."
Both drivers and passengers have the right to remain silent. If you are a passenger, you can ask if you are free to leave. If the officer says yes, sit silently or calmly leave. Even if the officer says no, you have the right to remain silent.
Just sign your ticket if you are given one. Otherwise, you can be arrested.
Ask about the consequences of refusal if you are asked to take a DUI test. Generally, you have a right to refuse a pre-arrest breath test and can say “I do not consent to the test.” However, if you are arrested for DUI, refusal to take a chemical test after your arrest will result in your license being suspended.
Ask if you can park your car in a safe place or have a licensed driver take it away, if you are arrested, to avoid towing or impoundment fees.
Never physically resist a search. Say “I do not consent to a search.”

What To Do If You Are Arrested

Tell the police your name and basic identifying information. Never give explanations, excuses, or stories. Just say “I want to remain silent” and “I want to talk to a lawyer.” They should stop questioning you after that.
Make sure you get your 3 phone calls within 3 hours of getting arrested or immediately after being booked. You can call a lawyer, bail bondsman, relative, or any other person. If you have children under 18, you get 2 additional calls to arrange childcare. Memorize phone numbers ahead of time.
Always assume the police are recording your calls or listening to your conversations (except the call with your lawyer).
Never talk about your case to anyone or over the phone unless it's with your attorney.
If you can’t pay for a lawyer, you have the right to a free one. Don’t say anything, sign anything or make any decisions without a lawyer.
Prepare yourself and your family in case you are arrested. Memorize the phone numbers of your family, bail bonds, and your lawyer. Make emergency plans if you have children or take medication.

You have a right to record law enforcement officers in public spaces like streets, sidewalks, and parks.

This guide is here to give you some tips on how to handle interactions with police officers in California. Remember, it's always a good idea to talk with a lawyer. Knowing your rights is key! By understanding the law, you can look out for yourself, your loved ones, and your neighborhood. This information is not intended as legal advice.
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