What Questions Can Police Officers Ask?
July 16, 2018
Serious questions were raised over Memorial Day Weekend, when a 20-year-old woman was assaulted and arrested on a Wildwood beach. She was with her toddler and boyfriend when police officers asked about a closed container of alcohol. They administered breathalyzer tests, which were negative.
Then, an officer asked her name, and she would not give it to him. The police said that she cursed and spit at them. They forced her to the ground, where she was punched in the head. She was eventually charged with resisting arrest, aggravated assault, and underage drinking. The police body camera video of the incident was released, and has since gone viral.
Was she required by law to provide her name when the officer asked? This is a gray area, as many who are questioned by police do not know their rights in these situations. According to a former Morris County prosecutor, “Of course nobody has an obligation to speak to the police during an investigation. That’s a basic Fifth Amendment right.” Situations differ, especially when they escalate out of control.
For example, in 2015, a NJ lawyer was arrested at a traffic stop for speeding. Although she provided her license, registration and insurance, she would not answer their inquiry as to whether or not she knew why she had been pulled over. They arrested her for refusing to speak. She later sued, and was awarded $30,000; however, the request could have been deemed lawful, since a summons was issued.
Citizens’ Rights in New Jersey
Being approached by a police officer can be unnerving, and keeping calm and focused is important. A person that knows their rights has the information they need to protect themselves from unlawful treatment.
Officers usually ask for ID, so this is standard. Being compliant is the best way to start. Citizens have the right to decline to answer any questions that they feel are inappropriate. Asking if they are under arrest, and what for, can defuse a potentially contentious situation. If they are not under arrest, they have the right to leave, unless the officers have a warrant or believe the law was broken. The police are within their rights to question anyone, though.
Officers may attempt to search someone’s vehicle, home, or person. In these situations, a warrant should be requested. If there is one, then a search is legal. Otherwise, police may resort to pressuring the person to allow a search. But they can only do a pat down or possibly use reasonable force to make an arrest without a signed warrant in hand.
“You’re Under Arrest”
Frightening to hear, but citizens still have rights when they are arrested. Resisting the officer is never a smart move, since it can lead officers to use more force. Cooperation makes things easier for all parties involved. Miranda Rights must be read out loud by the officer – “You have the right to remain silent,” and “You have the right to an attorney,” and so on.
Those who are arrested can expect to spend time at the police station. There are several possible outcomes, including release, a scheduled court appearance, or being charged.
Contact a Camden County Criminal Lawyer at the Law Office of Thomas J. Gossé, to Protect Your Rights
If you have been charged with an offense or arrested, seek help from an experienced Camden County Criminal Lawyer at the Law Office of Thomas J. Gossé. Call 856-546-6600 or contact us online today. Our Haddon Heights office is conveniently located to clients in Camden County, Burlington County, and surrounding areas.