No one wants to have a brush with the law, but the manner in which you handle this situation can often impact how it unfolds. Because police officers have an authoritative presence, people can often have their rights violated without even realizing it. Many criminal defense attorneys will emphasize to their clients the importance of being polite to an officer who stops them, but to also ask if they're free to leave. Doing so can take a little courage, but it can also prove to be beneficial for a number of reasons. Here are three reasons that you should ask the office this question.
You'll Know If You Should Be Quiet
A police officer will only read you your rights upon arresting you, but may try to get information out of you before informing you that you have the right to remain silent. If you ask the officer if you're free to leave and he or she says no, there may be a chance that you'll be arrested. By asking this question, you'll know that it's time to invoke your right to remain silent so that you don't further complicate your situation by talking. You can also ask to call a defense attorney, who can guide you through this situation.
You Can Avoid Harassment
People sometimes feel as though the police harass them for unfair reasons. For example, if you're a member of a certain ethnic group, you may feel as though the police are quicker to approach you and ask you questions. If you're an innocent bystander, you don't deserve to be peppered with questions that may make you feel as though you're a suspect. This is harassing behavior, and you have the right to not be subject to it. Often, asking if you're free to leave can be the key to ending the harassment.
You Can Prevent Unexpected Legal Issues
If you don't ask the police officer if you're free to leave, you may find yourself spending more time in the company of law enforcement than you might like. The longer you spend with the police, the more risk there may be of ending up in a legal predicament. For example, if you were stopped while walking down the street after going out for drinks with friends, the police officer may notice that you smell of alcohol during a subsequent conversation with you. This could potentially lead to a public intoxication charge — fortunately, something that your criminal defense attorney can help you with — but the charge could've been avoidable had you asked to leave and done so.
Contact a criminal defense lawyer for more help.