Your Rights When Interacting with Law Enforcement

Your Rights When Interacting with Law Enforcement

When interacting with law enforcement, everyone has important rights. These rights are protected by the United States Constitution, the Washington State Constitution, and other law. Your rights include the following: 

The right to remain silent and to stop answering questions

In general, there are two situations in which you must answer a police officer’s questions: (a) you must provide your name and identification if asked; and (b) if you are stopped while driving a vehicle, you must present your license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance. Otherwise, you may remain silent and choose not to answer questions asked of you by law enforcement. This is your privilege against self-incrimination. Anything you say to law enforcement can be used against you before or during trial.

The right to be represented by an attorney in all criminal matters

You have the right to be represented by an attorney throughout criminal proceedings, and to have an attorney appointed to represent you at public expense if you cannot afford one. A person has the right to counsel at every critical stage of the proceeding involving an actual confrontation between a representative of the state and the accused. The right to counsel attaches after a suspect has been arrested. If you are in custody and are being questioned by law enforcement, you have the right to remain silent and to request that counsel be present for any further questioning. If you clearly tell law enforcement that you want an attorney present for all questioning, the officers must stop their questioning until your attorney is present.

The right to withhold consent to search your property

In general, law enforcement may not conduct searches of your property (real property or personal property) without either your consent or a warrant supported by probable cause. (There are exceptions to this rule, though.) You have the right to refuse to consent to law enforcement searching your property; you may revoke your consent at any time if you have already given it; and you may give limited consent — i.e., you may give law enforcement consent to search only certain areas or parts of your property.

To learn more about your rights when interacting with law enforcement, see the ACLU’s informative booklet. (PDF)

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