As agents of the law, police officers can use physical force to restrain suspects. However, there are limits to the amount of force that they can use. Furthermore, officers must have a legitimate reason to apply any force whatsoever.
While officers, may not always follow these guidelines, their failure to do so can discredit the charges they are arresting you for. A clear understanding about the laws surrounding police encounters can help you assert your rights and protect yourself from harm.
What do I have to agree to?
If you are pulled over while operating a motor vehicle, you are required to provide a drivers’ license and vehicle registration. But, unless the officer has a legitimate reason to detain you, you don’t have to grant any other requests or answer any questions.
When an officer is not detaining you for a legitimate reason, they are not legally allowed to physically apply any force to get you to grant their requests.
What if they are physical anyway?
If an officer doesn’t follows these guidelines, and applies physical force regardless, they are abusing their power. However, that doesn’t mean you should try to resist their orders. If an officer will not allow you to refuse a request, you may want to comply for your own safety and contact an attorney for legal protection as soon as possible.
What if I am detained?
If an officer informs you that you are being detained or under arrest, you must comply. Refusing to comply may then be viewed as resisting arrest.
However, even if the officer has a legitimate reason to detain you, they must treat you humanely. This means that they must only use necessary force in order to detain you. Thus, if you are not resisting they are still not allowed to act violently.
When an officer breaks the rules
Knowing your rights can help you navigate any encounters smartly. However, just because there are legal guidelines, doesn’t mean that every officer will always observe them. When dealing with police officers, your immediate physical safety should always be your first concern. If you are detained—legitimately or not—do not resist arrest and contact an attorney for advice as soon as possible.