Know your rights in Law Enforcement Encounters
Updated: Oct 19, 2021
Dealing with law enforcement can be one of the most intimidating things a person can go through. Knowing what to do and what not to do when you are stopped, detained, or simply questioned by an officer can be extremely helpful.
Interactions with law enforcement can vary, especially in a border state like Texas that has over 2,700 law enforcement agencies.
“I've been pulled over and I'm undocumented”
As a firm that deals with both immigration and criminal defense law, we have gathered some helpful tips. Interactions with law enforcement officers can be even more intimidating when your immigration status comes into question. A lot of the time non-citizens believe that they do not have rights when it comes to interactions with law enforcement. We want you to know that no matter your status, you have rights!
Being Stopped or Detained by a police officer:
If stopped by an officer while driving or while outside your home here are some of the most important things to remember: - You must tell the officer your name, in Texas if you fail to identify yourself the officer may arrest you - You do not have to consent to a search of yourself or your belongings, but police may pat down your clothing if they suspect a weapon. - You do not have to answer questions about where you were born, whether you are a U.S. citizen, or how you entered the country. - You have the right to remain silent. For example, you do not have to answer any questions about where you are going, where you are traveling from, what you are doing, or where you live. If you wish to exercise your right to remain silent, say so out loud. - Do not lie about anything! - If you are arrested: -Do not run! -Ask to speak to your attorney or your family member (memorize their number) -Do NOT answer or sign anything without speaking to your attorney.
ICE at your house
What should you do if an ICE officer comes knocking at your door? Stay calm. You are normally not required to open the door to anyone. Immigration and police cannot come into your home without a warrant. If the officer claims to have a warrant request it and check for the following: - That the correct address is listed - That the correct name is listed - It must be signed by a Judge NOT an immigration official If the warrant does not have the any of the items, it is not valid. There are three different types of warrants that the officials may have. Search warrant- The officers can enter the address listed on warrant and search for the items listed. (You do not have to give the officer your consular documents/passport if they do not have a warrant from a judge specifically asking for those documents.) Arrest warrant- The officers can enter the home if they believe the person listed on the warrant is inside. Warrant of removal/deportation- These warrants are usually not signed by a judge and does not allow officers to enter home without consent. If the agents enter the house without a valid warrant, try to take notice of agents’ names and badge numbers. Even though the officers have gained entry to your home, remember to say, “I do not consent to this search.” This can be said in your native language if you are not fluent in English. If you can make a note of the interaction with the officer’s, note down what they ask you, their physical movements, if they are reaching for their weapon. This may seem unimportant now, but these details may turn out to be useful to your case later. Even if immigration agents have a valid warrant this does not mean you have to answer their questions. If immigration agents are questioning you and you wish to remain silent, you should say aloud that you wish to remain silent. If you choose to speak to them and do not know English, you have the right to ask for an interpreter. If you do not understand the documents that they are asking you to sign you can ask them to interpret it for you. Once you are detained you have the right to remain silent. You have the right to request an attorney in a criminal setting regardless of your immigration status.
If you are undocumented and are moved to an ICE detention center, you must hire your own attorney. An attorney will not be provided to you at the governments expense. In ICE custody lastly If you are taken to a detention center, use your granted phone call to call your family members. It is important that you make sure you tell them the name of the detention center, your alien registration number (or also referred to as A#) and possibly the name of the officer handling your case. Remember at detention centers everything is seen, heard, and recorded. If you have children and are worried about their care, let the officer know, especially if they are U.S. Citizens. If there is someone with a health condition to whom you are the primary caregiver to, let the officer know as well. Although it may seem like a meaningless task, one should consider preparing themselves for a situation like this. It is important that you are prepared should you ever get detained, even more so if you are undocumented as these cases can move very quickly: “In case I get detained” folder -Your birth certificate - Your Alien Registration Number (A#) -Your children’s birth certificates - All immigration documents that you ever received - A list of people that could possibly be your sponsor - Important contact information It is always important that you do not carry these documents with you but instead have them somewhere where your friends or family members can easily locate them if need to.
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2929 North Central Expressway, Suite 125, Richardson, Texas 75080