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Do You Know Your Rights If You Are Stopped By The Police?

Updated: Oct 30, 2019


Police encounters of all kinds can evoke fear and anxiety, regardless of whether or not you’ve done anything illegal. As a Rhode Island criminal defense attorney with more than 25 years of experience, it is safe for me to say that most people don’t know how to handle themselves during a police encounter. They know they have constitutional rights, but what are they? Being educated on your rights is more important than ever these days, which is why Sheeley Law is providing you the following information and tips:

To download a wallet-sized card of this information, click here.


What Should I Do If I Am Pulled Over in a Vehicle?

  1. Stop the car as soon as feasibly possible, in a safe place. If you feel the location you are in is unsafe, turn on your hazards so the police officer knows you have all intentions of pulling over.

  2. Turn off the car, switch on your interior light, roll down your window part way and place your hands on the steering wheel. Do not reach for your driver's license, registration and proof of insurance until the officer asks.

  3. Whether you are a driver or a passenger, you have the right to remain silent. If you are a passenger, you can ask the police officer if you are free to leave. Even if the officer says no, you have the right to remain silent.

  4. You do not have to consent to a search of yourself or your belongings. The officer, however, may decide to "pat down" your clothing, particularly if they suspect a weapon. While you should never physically resist, you do have the right to refuse consent for any further search after the "pat down." It is important to know that as soon as you consent to a search, you are thereby waiving your Fourth Amendment rights (protects you against unreasonable searches and seizures). Consenting to a search may harm your case, should you be arrested and have to appear in court.

  5. Importantly, stay calm. Do not try to run, resist or obstruct the police, even if you believe you are innocent of any crimes. If you believe your rights are being violated, tell the officer you are making note of his name and badge number. Call an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately.

  6. Ask if you are free to leave. If the officer says no and places you under arrest, you have every right to ask why.

  7. You have the right to a lawyer if you are arrested. Ask for one immediately and contact Sheeley Law.


Tips on What To Do If You’ve Been Arrested in RI

  • Pay attention to whether or not the officer read you your Miranda rights:“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?” It is important to note that police are only required to "Mirandize" if they intend to interrogate that person under custody. Arrests can occur without the Miranda Warning being given.

  • Do not resist arrest, even if you believe the arrest is unfair.

  • Say you wish to remain silent and ask for a lawyer immediately. The less you say the better, meaning do not provide any explanations or excuses. Do not say anything, sign anything or make any decisions without an experienced criminal defense lawyer by your side.

  • You have the right to make a local phone call. The police cannot listen in on a call with your attorney. Contact Sheeley Law immediately at 401-619-5555.

We depend on the police to protect us from harm and treat us all fairly. Most officers follow the rules and deserve our respect. Unfortunately, you can’t ignore the headlines - highly publicized cases of wrongdoing are on the rise. Police departments across the country are enforcing stricter protocols to ensure their officers obey their own rules and are held accountable for their actions. That’s all well and good, and long overdue. However, it is still up to each and every one of us to understand our individual rights.


If you have been arrested for a crime, you need to speak with an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Attorney Ann Sheeley will guide you through the process, protect your rights and thoroughly review the events leading to your arrest in order to uncover issues that could lead to a dismissal of the charge. For more information or a free consultation, contact Rhode Island Criminal Defense Attorney Ann Sheeley at 401-619-5555.