Former Prosecutors Defending Clients in Wyoming and South Dakota
Many people simply don’t understand the rights that are guaranteed to them under the Constitution, how these rights impact the level of compliance that is required when they interact with law enforcement, and what to do when approached by police officers.
There are plenty of laws that are misunderstood or completely unknown by the general population. But by educating yourself, you can protect yourself and your rights during interactions with police or other law enforcement agents.
And if you find yourself in a situation where you have been placed under arrest, tell the police you are asserting your right to remain silent, ask to speak to a lawyer, then contact the Legal Team of Christina L. Williams as quickly as possible.
Unless the police have a warrant or you give consent to allow the police to look through your phone, they do not have a right to look through the contents of your phone, even when you are in custody.
In the U.S. Supreme Court case of Riley v. California, Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority, stated that because "digital data stored on a cell phone cannot itself be used as a weapon to harm an arresting officer or to effectuate the arrestee's escape" there is no immediate need for a police officer to search the contents of your phone.
Except in certain rare circumstances, such as if they see evidence of illegal activity, police cannot enter your home without your consent or a warrant.
Police officers are allowed to lie about the evidence they have, such as your DNA evidence at the scene of a crime, to try to get you to confess. Courts have repeatedly held that deliberate deception by law enforcement is fair, as long as it is unlikely to result in a false confession.
If you are in an outdoor public space or on private property with the property owner’s permission, you are allowed to film or photograph a police officer. They cannot legally command you not to. And they need a warrant to request to view your videos or photographs.
If you abandon your property, even temporarily, the police can search it. For example, if you are at the airport and leave your bag while you go to the bathroom, the police can legally go through it. In the 1997 Supreme Court case of United States v. Tugwell, the court held that whenever a person leaves their property unattended they forfeit privacy protections provided under the Fourth Amendment.
If you have not been detained or arrested, the police cannot hold you against your will. You should ask if you are being detained, and if not, you are free to go.
If the police come to your residence with a search warrant you have the right to read it. The police are only allowed to search the places specified in the warrant.
Police cannot pull you over without a legal justification. This is known as probable cause, and it is the minimum threshold a police officer must have to be able to initiate a traffic stop. A police officer must be able to articulate specifically what conduct they believed was illegal before stopping you. And if they do pull you over without probable cause to believe you committed a crime and then discover evidence of criminal activity, that evidence cannot be used against you in court.
You are never required to consent to a search. If the police ask to search your vehicle, person, or residence but do not have a warrant, you can tell them you do not consent to the search.
Also, if you have consented to a search and the police damage your property, it is unlikely that you will be compensated because you gave them permission to perform the search.
If you are being questioned by a police officer, you have the right to not answer their questions. Politely tell them that you are asserting your right to remain silent and ask to speak to your lawyer. You cannot be arrested or detained simply for refusing to answer questions.
If you have been charged with a crime, it is critical that you protect your rights and seek experienced legal counsel as quickly as possible.
Criminal defense attorney Christina l. Williams and her defense team have extensive experience protecting people’s rights and defending people who have been accused of committing a crime. We invite you to learn more about the cases we handle, to get answers to Frequently Asked Questions, and to contact us today to schedule your personalized case review and strategy session.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is offered for educational purposes only. This information is not offered as legal advice. A person accused of a crime should always consult with an attorney before making decisions that have legal consequences.