Q: What if law enforcement officers stop me on the street, what are my legal obligations?
A: A person stopped on public property has no legal obligation to answer questions of a police officer. The Police, absent some suspicion of a crime, have no right to stop you and or investigate you. You have no legal obligation to answer questions, or do anything for that matter.
A person in this kind of police encounter may say, “I do not want to talk to you” and walk away calmly. This approach however, can lead to an officer responding aggressively (despite the legal right for a citizen to do so). Or, if you do not feel comfortable doing that, you can ask if you are free to go. If the answer is yes, then you can and should simply just walk away. Do not run from the officer.
Sometimes answering benign questions may be a simple way to end the encounter positively, however that is a discretionary decision to be made at the time of the police encounter. Speaking to the Police is never advised, however in some situations, providing minimal information can result in a positive police encounter.
It is important to remember however that you do not have to answer any questions, and anything that you say can and will be used against you. If you are exercising your rights and choose to not respond to the officer or answer any of the questions asked, it is appropriate to state: “respectfully officer, am I under arrest or am I free to leave? Or state: Am I Free To Go? – As soon as the police officer ask you a question ask “am I free to go?”
By stating am” I free to go,” you are letting the officer know that it is not your desire to otherwise voluntarily stay and talk with him. If the police officer says you’re being detained or arrested tell the police officer “I’m going to remain silent.
If the officer says you are not under arrest, but you are not free to go, then you are being detained. In this situation, you should immediately assert your right to remain silent, by letting the officer know you will not be making any statements, and request you be given an opportunity to consult with counsel.
Being detained is not the same as being arrested, though an arrest could follow. In these instances, the police can pat down the outside of your clothing only if they have “reasonable suspicion” (i.e., an objective reason to suspect) that you might be armed and dangerous. (although there is no police officer public safety exception) sit the case.
If they search any more than this, say clearly, “I do not consent to a search.” If they keep searching anyway, do not physically resist them. You do not need to answer any questions if you are detained or arrested, except that the police may ask for your name once you have been detained, and you can be arrested in some states for refusing to provide it. (Non-citizens should see Section IV for more information on this topic.)
NEVER give consent to a police officer and allow a conversation to start. If a police officer stops you and ask to speak with you, you’re perfectly within your rights to say “I do not wish to speak to you,” then say good-bye.
At this point you should be free to leave, but the police officer will probably ask for your identification. If you have identification on you, tell the officer where it’s at and ask permission to reach for it. “In some states you’re not required to show an I.D. unless you’re driving a vehicle and the police officer has reasonable suspicion that you have committed a crime or a traffic violation.” Know the laws of your state!”
The police officer might start asking you questions, at this point you may ask the officer “Am I Free to Go?” The police officer may not like this and challenge you with words like, “If you have nothing to hide, why won’t you speak to me?” Just say “I’m going to remain silent.”
Police officers need your permission to have a conversation. They receive that permission when and only if you respond to any questions at any time. Instead DO NOT GIVE THE POLICE permission to talk to you. If you do not respond, there is no conversation, and nothing has been said or stated by you, and thus, nothing can or will be used against you. There is NO law that says you have tell a police officer where you are going or where you have been, but you must tell the police officer “I’m going to remain silent.”
Additionally a police officer may not simply frisk your person in these situations. A police officer may frisk a suspect only if there is reasonable suspicion to believe the suspect is armed and dangerous. The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that there is no general “officer safety” exception to the search warrant requirement. Officers may lawfully stop a person upon reasonable suspicion to believe the person is involved in criminal activity. However once the stopped, an officer may only conduct a frisk or patdown when the officer has reasonable suspicion to believe the particular person to be searched is armed and dangerous.
Driving or Not Driving
The privilege to drive is often taken for granted, but you may lose this privilege for a variety of reasons. The law requires the Secretary of State to automatically suspend or revoke your driver license for certain violations. The action taken against your driver license will depend on a number of factors, including the type of violation or unsafe driving behavior involved, your driving record, and your willingness to comply with assessment recommendations and requirements.
Licensing actions range from restrictions to revocations. The most serious action is a revocation, defined in MCL 257.52 as the termination of the operator’s license and privilege to operate a motor vehicle. The driver is only eligible to reapply to the Department for license restoration after the expiration of one year following a first revocation, and after the expiration of five years for a subsequent revocation within seven years of a prior revocation. There is no guarantee that the license will be returned after the minimum period of revocation. The pivotal issue is whether the person can be considered a safe driver based upon documentary evidence and testimony.
A suspension is for a definite period and carries a “from” and “through” date. When the “through” date is reached, the driver merely needs to appear at a branch office and pay the reinstatement fee for relicensure. (That is, if no additional violations occur during the period of suspension.) If the reinstatement fee is not paid, the driver is on an “invalid” license status.
However, restrictions or suspensions may also be “indefinite” in nature, and will not terminate until approved for relicensure by the Department or a court. For example, if an indefinite suspension is imposed by a Department analyst for a medical reason, the driver must submit a favorable medical statement for evaluation before relicensure is authorized.
Please see the following charts summarizing sections of the Motor Vehicle Code which require licensing actions by the Department of State:
Be aware of Police Questions:
Komorn Law has represented numerous clients through the legal chaos of starting up a business in the Michigan Medical Marihuana Industry as well as consulting and legal representation for Medical Maruhuana Patients and Caregivers.
If you or someone you know has been arrested as a result of Medical Marijuana, DUI, Drugs, Forfeiture, Criminal Enterprise or any other criminal charges please contact our office and ensure you’re defended by an experienced lawyer.
Attorney Michael Komorn is recognized as an expert on the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act. He is the President of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Association (MMMA), a nonprofit patient advocacy group which advocates for the rights of medical marijuana patients and their caregivers.
Contact us for a free no-obligation case evaluation 800-656-3557.
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