Have you been detained by the police, pulled over, or were you in a car that had been pulled over? Do you know your rights? Many citizens do not understand what their rights are or what they are legally required to do or say during questioning or detainment by police.

In order to understand what actions could put you at risk, it is important to understand your legal rights should you find yourself in an encounter with law enforcement. 


Steps To Reduce Your Risk 

Whether you have been pulled over in a traffic stop, detained during an incident, or are just being questioned by law enforcement, there are some simple things that you can do that will reduce your risk both legally and physically. 

First and foremost, do not run or evade police. This could lead to an escalation of the incident and potentially an altercation with law enforcement. 

Additionally, stay calm and keep a clear head. This means, do not lie to law enforcement or obstruct their work whether you are involved in the incident or not. Remain where the police ask you to and either invoke your right to remain silent or cooperate with the investigation. 

What If You Are Arrested or Detained? 

In the case where you have been arrested and read your Miranda Rights or detained by police for questioning, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) explains that you should remain silent, thus using your right to not incriminate yourself and immediately ask to call a lawyer. 

If you have been arrested you have the right to make a local phone call and that call should be to someone who can secure you a lawyer or directly to a lawyer who can represent you in a potential future case. 

hands behind back about to be handcuffed with bag of white pills on a bag

Your Miranda Rights 

The Miranda Warnings read by a police officer may sound overwhelming at the moment but there are four key parts that you should be aware of that could help you in the situation. Miranda Warning (rights) include: 

  • “You have the right to remain silent.” This indicates that someone being detained does not have to answer questions without a lawyer present. Staying silent is a smart idea until you have legal counsel who can advise on the next steps in the process and look out for the client’s rights. 
  • “Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.” In other words, remain silent or whatever you say at this point could be used in a case against you. 

Should you wish to remain silent it is advised by the ACLU that you should express these wishes by saying something along the lines of – “I wish to remain silent” or “I wish to remain silent and consult with an attorney.” Once you express your intent to remain silent, you do not have to answer questions. If you do not make it clear that you intend to remain silent, you may be subject to more questioning.

The second half of the Miranda Warning given by police includes the following: 

  • “You have the right to an attorney.” 
  • If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.

Are You Required To Identify Yourself? 

In the case of a traffic stop or being pulled over on the side of the road there are some specific rights and responsibilities that Bay Staters should understand. 

If you are pulled over while driving a motor vehicle or a bicycle in Massachusetts, you MUST identify yourself to the police upon request or you can be charged with a crime for not doing so. You have a right to ask the police to identify themselves so you can be sure the person asking you for information is a police officer. 

Passengers in vehicles that are part of a motor vehicle stop have different legal requirements. According to the ACLU, “If you are a passenger in the car, you do NOT have to identify yourself by name or address to a police officer when asked, unless perhaps if the officer is trying to issue you a citation, such as for not wearing a seat belt. Other than that, you can make it clear that you are exercising your rights to remain silent and not to identify yourself.” 

Should you find yourself in a situation where you need legal counsel, contact the Office of Patrick Conway