Interactions with the police can be intimidating. New Jersey residents generally have a basic understanding of their rights. But they may be misinformed about how much they need to cooperate with law enforcement if they’ve been stopped. Plenty of people who haven’t done anything wrong find themselves unexpectedly interacting with the police. That’s why it’s important to understand what your rights are and when they’ve been violated.
State and federal rights
People should be most concerned with their First, Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights when they interact with the police. These are the most likely to become an issue for civil rights violations. The First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees your right to assemble and protest peacefully. It also grants you the right to record your interactions with law enforcement.
The Fourth Amendment is a little more focused on property. It ensures that police can’t search you without cause, and can’t take things from you without due process. The Fifth Amendment is once again about speech. This guarantees your right to remain silent and not incriminate yourself. People should also be familiar with state and local laws, as outlined in documents like state constitutions. These may provide them with additional protections under the law.
The type of interaction
People should also understand what kind of interaction they’re having with the police. It may just be a conversation. But there are also two other levels to consider: detention and arrest. You don’t have to have a conversation with the police if you don’t want to and should be free to leave.
If you aren’t sure what kind of interaction you’re having with the police, you may consider asking if you’re being detained. Law enforcement needs a reasonable suspicion that you’ve done something wrong to detain you. Remember: even if your rights are violated, it’s unwise to resist arrest. Don’t be baited into being charged with resisting or assaulting an officer. The best course of action may be to wait for your day in court.