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Police Encounters


Interactions with police can be stressful for anyone. Many people are uncertain about what their obligations are when they are stopped by a police officer. They don't know what they have to say, what they have to do, or when they are free to leave. No one wants to upset an armed officer and end up in handcuffs for handling a police encounter the wrong way. However, most people also want a police encounter to end as quickly as possible with a minimum of intrusion into their personal effects and time.

So what are your obligations when you are stopped by the police, either in your car, or on the street? If stopped in your car, you must provide your driver's license, registration, and proof of insurance. However, beyond that, the waters become a bit murkier. The level of intrusion into your life permissible by the police varies depending on their suspicion that you may be breaking the law.

There are three categories of interaction between citizens and police as defined by Constitutional case law. A mere encounter need not be supported by any level of suspicion, but a person also has no compulsion to stop or respond to that officer's request. An investigative detention must be supported by reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed. You have the right to remain silent at all times but you are not free to leave. Reasonable suspicion may be supported by facts that include: a person's presence in a high crime area, flight from the scene when approached by officers, odors of illegal substances, and more. No singular factor is controlling, instead the test is whether a reasonable person would believe that under the "totality of the circumstances" they were not free to leave.

Finally, a custodial detention must be supported by probable cause. Being put in handcuffs, being taken down to the station, being formally arrested, or more may clue you into the fact that you are subject to a custodial detention. At this point, certain rights attach, which I describe in depth in my post about Miranda Rights.

In these stressful situations, there is no need to be needlessly confrontational or rude to the police. However, there is no need to incriminate yourself or subject yourself to unconstitutional searches either. If you have been arrested or stopped and searched by police, you need an experienced professional who knows how to fight for your rights. If your rights have been violated, call Attorney Frank Walker today at (412)-315-7441. Lines are open 24/7!

Attorney Frank Walker of Frank Walker Law is a National Top 100 Criminal Defense Lawyer and Personal Injury Attorney with offices in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania and Morgantown West Virginia. Attorney Walker is also a member of the National College for DUI Defense and qualified as a Pennsylvania Death Penalty Defense Attorney.

If you or someone you love are facing criminal charges or seriously injured in an accident in WV or PA, contact Attorney Frank Walker immediately at 412-532-6805, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for aggressive and experienced Criminal Defense or Representation in a Civil Case.