You’ve just arrived at a non-descript warehouse in D.C. You are not the first to arrive, there are already twenty other vendors setting up their temporary storefronts, all stocked with packaged cannabis “products”. You begin to set up your table display and scan the room. You recognize a few of the vendors with their usual inventory of stickers, raffle tickets, snacks, art, t-shirts and smoking accessories. This particular location has drawn large crowds in the past, and a vendor can make a pretty profit. You begin to settle in for your five hour “shift”, when suddenly you hear what sounds like a gunshot and several voices blaring, “DO NOT F***KING MOVE, PUT YOUR HANDS UP!!!” Everyone scatters, and a dozen police officers armed with black riot shields and AR-15 assault rifles storm the room. The police begin detaining customers and vendors but quickly run out of handcuffs, and resort to zip ties. As you sit behind your table with the zip ties digging in to your wrists, you wonder what you should do or say to the police when they begin questioning you. You should know your rights.

1. Stay Calm.

  • Remain where you are and keep your hands in plain sight.
  • Be polite and do NOT argue with the police.
  • Do NOT attempt to touch police officers or interfere with their investigation.

2. Ask “Am I Being Detained, Or Am I Free To Leave?”

  • If you are told that you are free to leave, then calmly and quietly leave the premises.
  • If a police officer tells you that you are not free to leave, then you are being detained. This does not mean that you are being arrested, it means that you will be held in custody until the police officers determine whether there is probable cause for them to arrest you.
  • If you are detained, this does not mean that the police can search your person. The police are only permitted to search your person if they have a reasonable belief that you are armed. If a police officers asks to search your person for drugs or something other than weapons, you should not consent to the search.
  • The police are permitted to place you in handcuffs while you are being detained.

3. You Have The Right to Remain Silent.

  • Less is more when speaking with the police. Anything you say while you are detained could lead to your arrest.
  • Tell the police that you are choosing to remain silent.
  • Even if you choose to remain silent, you may have to give the police your name, but you are not required to give them your I.D., social security number or any additional personal information.
  • If you do provide any information to the police, do not lie.
  • If your phone, tablet or computer is not on your person, you are not required to tell police the location of your device or identify a particular device as yours. If the police are able to link you to a device, you are not required to provide the password to unlock the device.

4. If You Are Arrested, Do NOT Resist Arrest And Do NOT Consent To Any Further Searches

  • Remember, police are not required to warn you that you have a right to refuse consent to a search.
  • Once you have been arrested, an officer has the right to search your person and the area within your immediate control at the time of the arrest. This includes: your clothing, pockets, wallet, and other items, i.e. bags or containers in the area of your person. There are some restrictions about the scope of any searches following an arrest:
  • Cellphones: Police may only search the physical aspects of your phone or its case for contraband or weapons. Police cannot search the contents of your phone without first obtaining a warrant for your phone.
  • Vehicle: If you have a vehicle parked outside, police may not conduct a search of your car without your consent, a warrant, or if it is reasonable to believe that your vehicle contains evidence relevant to the crime for which you have been arrested. If the police ask if they can search your vehicle you are not required to give them consent.
  • Social media: If your social media accounts are accessible to the public, be aware that police may use your name or other personal identifying information to locate and search publicly available information on your accounts. If asked, do not provide any login information for your social media accounts.

5. If You Are Arrested You Have The Right To A Lawyer.

  • Anything you say to a police officer can be used against you. It is not a crime to remain silent until you speak with a lawyer.
  • A police officer may not continue to question you once you have asked for a lawyer.
  • Even if you have already answered some questions, you can refuse to answer further questions until you have a lawyer.
  • Don’t say anything, sign anything, or make any decisions without a lawyer.

6. Gather As Much Information About Your Arrest As Possible.

  • Write down everything you remember.
  • Officers’ badge and patrol car numbers.
  • What agency the officers were from.
  • Contact information for potential witnesses.

This article was written for Local’D by John Mcgowan. LOCAL’d is a helping hand to the companies that strengthen your community in the Washington, DC area. Helping them to grow through financial and promotional support, LOCAL’d is the sidekick every superhero would want.