Whether you are an undocumented immigrant or a US citizen being stopped by the police is always unnerving. Law enforcement officials are trained to control and subjugate the people they encounter so naturally many of us mistakenly assume that we are powerless when they stop us. That is incorrect. Whether you are an immigrant or US citizen, you have power in your encounters with the police. That power is called the US Constitution. Here is a list of the basic rights you are allowed to exercise when stopped by the police, ICE or other law enforcement.
- You are not required to carry ID: Although it is a good idea to carry ID for a number of reasons, there is no national law requiring you to do so. The exception is, of course, if you are driving a vehicle. Also, if you are being detained for reasonable suspicion of criminal activity then you may be required to produce ID if you have it. Otherwise, the police cannot arrest you simply because you do not possess ID.
- You do not have to sign anything you don’t understand: Here is where some immigrants get into trouble. Because they feel intimidated by law enforcement and may be told that signing certain documents will help, some immigrants sign papers they don’t understand. Never do this.
- You have the right to refuse to consent to a search: You should be polite but clear in asserting to officers that they do not have your permission to search you. If you are being arrested then they may search you for their own safety. Otherwise, as the 4th Amendment clearly points out, you have a right to be secure in your home, your papers and your personal effects from search and seizure.
- You have a right to remain silent: If you are stopped by ICE or other immigration officials, you may be asked about your immigration status. You do not and should not answer this question. Tell the officer out loud that you wish to exercise your right to remain silent.
- You have the right to a lawyer if you are arrested: Although it may take some time, you have the right to legal representation in all criminal matters. (You do not have the right to free legal representation in civil matters.)
This having all been said, if you are stopped by ICE or even by local police you should remain calm and remember every detail of the encounter including the officer’s badge number, his name and department or agency he/she works for. Finally, if you need more information about immigration rights in Los Angeles or if you need an immigration attorney in Van Nuys contact Erika Roman Attorney at Law.