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Six Tips for Talking with a Police Officer

This blog post--which is the last in a three-part series involving the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution--provides six tips on how to handle yourself when talking with a police officer.

First, it is important to stay calm. Don't run, argue, or be confrontational. If you are innocent or guilty, remaining calm will benefit you in the grand scheme of things.

Second, you can ask the officer if you are free to leave. If the officer says yes, simply walk away. If you are being detained, you have a right to know why.

Third, you have the right to remain silent and refuse to answer questions. Generally speaking, you are required to identify yourself. But if you don't want to talk further, calmly tell the officer you wish to remain silent or that you wish to speak to a lawyer.

Fourth, you do not have to consent to a search. The officer is allowed to pat you down if he or she suspects a weapon. In some circumstances, the police may conduct a search or your person, vehicle, or home without a warrant, but it is important to remember that if an officer asks for your consent, you can say no. In fact, sometimes it is important to say no, as consenting to a search may result in legal proceedings. (Note: If you have been arrested for DUI/DWI in Minnesota, it is a crime in some circumstances to refuse to submit to a chemical test of your blood, breath, or urine. If you have been arrested for DUI/DWI, you have a right to talk to a lawyer before testing and it is important to exercise that right for guidance in your particular situation).

Fifth, if you are arrested, say you wish to remain silent and ask for a lawyer immediately. Don't give explanations or excuses. There are circumstances when cooperating with a police investigation can be helpful, but generally that decision should be made only after consulting with a lawyer.

Finally, you have the right to make a local phone call, and the police cannot listen if you are talking to a lawyer.

If you've been questioned by a police officer, placed under arrest, or charged with a crime, it is important to contact a lawyer right away. Grant Borgen of Bird, Jacobsen & Stevens, P.C. handles criminal cases and is always available for a free consultation.

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