In the United States, being stopped by an officer of the law is an experience to fear. Unfortunately, several incidents throughout the county have placed a spotlight on police aggression and abuse of power, which has led to violent encounters and unjust deaths. When interacting with police in Louisiana, it’s crucial to know your rights because there is no guarantee that the police officer who stops you will follow the rules. It is up to citizens to identify when police violate their rights and know when to contact a criminal defense attorney.
Police officers in Louisiana have the right to stop you if they have reasonable suspicion that you have committed a traffic infraction or crime. Knowing your rights when interacting with police is the first step in protecting yourself during these tense situations. In your next encounter with law enforcement, keep these tips in mind.
When Can Police Stop You?
Police have a duty to protect their communities and as such may stop you if they have reasonable suspicion that a crime is taking place. If police approach you in Louisiana, by law, you must give them your name and address. Refusing to identify yourself can lead to an arrest. A court will decide whether the stop was lawful at a later date.
Usually, police request identification before explaining why they have stopped you. If police stop you in traffic, it is prudent to provide your driver’s license, vehicle registration, and proof of car insurance.
Communicating With Louisiana Police Officers
When speaking with a law enforcement officer, it’s important to think carefully about the information you provide, as anything you say can be used against you. You are not obligated to answer questions if you are detained or arrested. Respectfully decline to answer inquiries before seeking legal counsel by claiming your right to remain silent.
When communicating with police in Louisiana, it’s important to:
- Be conscious of your verbal and nonverbal communication
- Avoid complaining
- Avoid getting into a debate with the officer
- Keep your hands where the officer can see them
- Avoid attempting to escape
- Keep your hands to yourself
- Avoid resisting
- Take down the officer’s badge and patrol car numbers
- Refrain from obstructing the officer’s duties
- Ask for a lawyer
Consenting to a Search of your Person, Home, or Car
You do not have to consent to a search of your person, your home, or your car if police request to search these areas. In fact, agreeing to a search can cost you more long-term as it can affect your rights in court. A search can also provide incriminating evidence you did not expect the officer would find. Whenever possible, it is best to refuse to consent to a search.
In some cases, police claim to have a search warrant. They may claim to have a warrant to persuade you to consent to a search. Before allowing the search to continue, ask to see the warrant! If they cannot show you a physical representation of the search warrant, you do not have to allow them to search the premises, though in some cases they will do so anyway.
If police continue to search you, your home or your car despite you refusing to consent to the search, avoid interfering with the search. The report will show that they searched you without your consent.
If Police Want to Enter Your Home
Police who knock on your door and ask to search your house must have a warrant signed by a judge to enter the building unless they are responding to an emergency situation. If police ask to enter your home, you may refuse to allow them entry unless they can show you the warrant.
If police arrest you inside your home or another building, they may search you and the area around you. This usually means they can search the room you are in, but not the rest of the house or building.
Steps to Take if You Are Arrested
- You have the right to remain silent and ask for a lawyer if police arrest you.
- Do not provide the arresting officer(s) anything but your name and address.
- Do not explain yourself, provide an excuse or make up a story as to why you were doing what you were doing; your defense will come later in court.
- Seek an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Louisiana to protect your rights as soon as possible upon your arrest. If you are arrested for the very first time, check out our Louisiana First-Time Offender’s Guide.
A strong defense involves an experienced Louisiana defense lawyer to thoroughly investigate all aspects of your case and ensure your rights are protected at each step of the judicial process. Attorney Eric G. Johnson of the John D. & Eric G. Johnson Law Firm has defended clients accused of just about every offense in the Louisiana Criminal Code over the past 24 years. Call 318-377-1555 or email him a description of your case for a free consultation.