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What Are My Rights When Talking To The Police?

The relationship between citizens and police is complex, and can make interactions difficult when it comes to knowing your rights. We’ll answer your biggest questions when it comes to dealing with the police.

When am I required to talk to the police?

Never. You are never required to talk to the police, regardless of whether you have been arrested. If you have not been detained or arrested, it is your right to discontinue an encounter with the police whenever you want. If you have been detained or arrested, you are not able to walk away from the police, but you are not obligated to speak with them.

When are the police allowed to arrest or detain me?

Police may only detain you or arrest you under certain circumstances. Usually, for police to lawfully detain you, they must have a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. For police officer to formally arrest you, they must have either secured a warrant for your arrest or have probably cause to believe that you’ve commited a crime prior to them arresting you.

How much force are police allowed to use in restraining or arresting me?

Under the Fourth Amendment, police are only allowed to use a reasonable amount of force to restrain you or arrest you. When police use more force to accomplish this than reasonably necessary, the force is considered to be unconstitutionally excessive. But how do we know what’s considered ‘reasonable’? Simply put—it depends on the specific facts of each case. But, the Supreme Court has clarified that there are a number of factors that courts should consider when deciding whether a given use of force was reasonable. 

These include considering the severity of the crime at issue, whether the suspect is resisting or fleeing arrest, whether the suspect poses a risk to officers or others around them, and the severity of the injuries that use of force caused. The court will consider all of these points as part of the “totality of circumstances” in making its decision. 

If you believe that police officers have violated your civil rights, let us take a look at your case and see if we can help you.

About the Author:

Isaac McBeth is a proud partner at the Halperin Law Center, where he primarily focuses on complex federal litigation. Mr. McBeth has been recognized as a Super Laywers “Rising Star” in the area of civil rights litigation every year since 2017. An honor reserved for only the top 2.5% of attorneys in Virginia in each practice area. A military man, Mr. McBeth served the United Startes Army for 8 years before starting his law education. Following his discharge, Isaac graduated with a BA in Legal Studies from American Military Unversity, then as a John Marshall Scholar from the University of Richmond T.C. Williams School of Law. Since joining the firm in 2015, Mr. McBeth has acquired extensive experience litigating police misconduct issues, unconstitutional condition of incarceration, and area of product liability and medical malpractice.


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