Knowing Your Rights: How to Protect Yourself and Family from Police Misconduct

Law Enforcement officers take an oath of duty to protect and serve their communities.  An overwhelming majority of these officers take that oath very seriously and go unnoticed.  These brave men and women protect our communities with their lives and receive very little in return.  The Law Firm of Massey & Duffy salute these officers and recognize their selfless service.
Unfortunately, not every officer is a good one, and a small minority can make big problems for their community, their department, and perhaps for you.  Knowing your rights can make a big difference when interacting with law enforcement officers, your rights can protect yourself and your family from unnecessary legal issues and injury.

  1. “Am I being detained?” – Anytime a police officer stops you for questioning, you have the right to ask whether you are being detained (or arrested). If the officer says “no,” then you should ask, “May I leave?” When the officer says, you may leave, walk away slowly, calmly and silently.
  2. If/when you are arrested or detained – If the officer informs you that you are being detained or arrested, remember you have the right to remain SILENT. No matter how awkward or prolonged this makes your experience with the authorities, it is always in your best interest to stay calm and quiet during their investigation. Under no circumstances should you ever show false documents or lie to a law enforcement officer.  This is a crime and the investigation will often uncover any deception or false statements.
  3. Giving your name or identification to law enforcement – If an officer has expressed that you are free to leave, then by all means LEAVE. However, if you are being detained, then your participation becomes a bit colluded. In the state of Florida, you may be charged with ‘obstructing a police officer without violence’ if you are legally detained or arrested and fail to provide your full name to law enforcement.  This is a misdemeanor and is generally used as a last resort by officers who have no other reason for detention and are unsatisfied with a person’s cooperation and often if no legal arrest is made in connection with the “obstruction” then that charge also becomes invalid.  If you are pulled over in a vehicle on a public road, most states (including Florida), it is required that you surrender your drivers’ license to law enforcement regardless if you are being detained or not.  In fact, your driver’s license technically belongs to the state of Florida (don’t believe me? Read the back of your license).
  4. Warrants and Search/Seizures – We all assume some risk of police harassment when we travel in public places or on public roads, but perhaps the most frightening experience can be the invasion of privacy that comes when law enforcement comes to your residence. If any federal, state or local law enforcement knocks on your door – DO NOT OPEN IT! Ask for a warrant and have them slip it under the door for you to inspect.  Make sure the warrant is signed by a judge, has the correct address and what areas are specified for the search.  If any property is seized, be sure to get a property receipt.  You also have the right to get names and badge numbers for all officers.  If an officer attempts to enter your home without your consent, make sure you inform them in a loud, clear voice that you do not consent to their entry or search of your premises.  If there are witnesses to an illegal search, get their names, phone numbers and addresses.
  5. Do not sign any Documents without an Attorney Present – Officers will generally try and get you to sign documents during their investigation. They may want to make a deal with you or try and get additional information regarding the case. Do not sign anything, ever, without an attorney’s advice.  You have the right to have an attorney present throughout the investigation and should have one before you give any information or sign any documents.

Interactions with police officers is often unnerving, uncomfortable and filled with large amounts of anxiety.  You should remain calm at all times, do not give any statements, and do not do anything that may be construed as aggressive or threatening.  If you are injured by a police officer, contact a lawyer immediately, an attorney will ensure your injuries are treated and evidence is preserved.  If there are witnesses, give their names and contact info to your attorney right away so they can be contacted for statements as soon as possible.
If you believe you have suffered personal injury or property damage due to police misconduct, you may call the Law Office of Massey & Duffy at (352) 505-8900 to schedule a FREE CONSULTATION today!


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