12 Rights Police Don’t Want You To Know

A man being pulled over by the police for a traffic stop.

You probably already know about many of the rights you have, especially those concerning interactions with law enforcement. Rights like the right to remain silent or the right to an attorney are widely known. These rights are constantly mentioned in TV shows, news articles, and other places. However, you also have many other rights that you might not know about.

You have some rights that police officers don’t even want you to know! In some cases, these rights can make their job more difficult, so they hope you don’t find out about them. However, we will give you all the details on the rights that the police don’t want you to know. After you read this article, you will know your rights! 

12 Rights Police Don’t Want You To Know About

Have you been wondering what your rights are when dealing with the police? Some of your rights are protected by the U.S. Constitution, while others are protected by state laws. Your rights that are protected by state law might vary from state to state, so make sure you are aware of the laws in your state. Also, remember that the information contained below is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. If you need legal advice, you should seek the help of an experienced attorney. Now, here are some of your rights that you might not know about and that the police don’t want you to find out.


— Not All States Require You To Identify Yourself

So, do you have to identify yourself to the police? Many people believe that they must provide identification whenever a police officer asks for it. However, that is not the case. Some states are considered “Stop and ID” states, while others are not. There is one general rule that you should keep in mind, though. You are never required to identify yourself unless a police officer suspects you of a crime. Without this reasonable suspicion, you cannot be forced to provide identification when you encounter the police in a public place.

If reasonable suspicion does exist, a police officer may ask you to provide identification. This is where things vary from one state to another. For example, some states allow a police officer to ask for your name, address, and other identifying information if they suspect you have committed or may be about to commit a felony. On the other hand, police officers might only be able to stop you and ask for your ID if they believe you may have a handgun. Just remember that if the police stop you and ask for your ID, you are not obligated to provide it in every situation.

Even if the police have the authority to ask for your ID, you should also remember that there are some questions you are never required to answer. You never have to answer questions about your immigration status or whether you are a U.S. citizen. Even if you decide to provide your name and contact information, you do not have to answer every question the police ask you.


— Police Cannot Pull You Over Without Probable Cause

The protections afforded to you by the Constitution and state laws also apply when you are driving your car. The police cannot pull you over without probable cause that you have committed a crime. The crime could be as simple as speeding, rolling through a stop sign, or having a blown tail light. However, there must be some basis for a traffic stop as the police cannot pull you over for no reason.

Once you are stopped, you will typically need to provide your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance to the law enforcement officer. This can sometimes be a bit of a tricky area because courts have held that you can be convicted of speeding based on an officer’s visual observation alone. This means that a police officer might only need to observe your vehicle passing by and testify to his opinion of your speed to qualify as probable cause. If it is found that no probable cause existed, any evidence of a crime found after the stop was initiated will likely be thrown out.


— Police Cannot Enter Your Home Without A Search Warrant

A police search warrant.

If the police knock on your door and ask to come inside, you do not have to allow them to enter unless they have a warrant. The Fourth Amendment describes your constitutional right to protection from illegal searches and seizures. You have an expectation of privacy in your home, and you are not required to allow the police to enter without a search warrant. While this is generally the case, there are a couple of exceptions to this rule.

First, the “plain view” doctrine would allow them to enter your home if they saw evidence of a crime. Also, they will be allowed to enter if they are in hot pursuit. For example, suppose you committed a felony and started running. The police follow you, and you run inside your home and close the door. Even though you are inside your house, the police can forcefully enter your home because they are in hot pursuit of a criminal suspect.


— The Police Can Lie To You About Evidence

You might be surprised to learn about this one. Many people believe that you have a right to be told the truth by the police, but that is not the case. In fact, many police encounters often involve the police lying to a suspect about evidence. Can the police lie to you? Lying about evidence is not a violation of your civil rights, and it is a fairly common practice at police stations across the country during questioning.

On multiple occasions, courts have held that deliberate deception by the police is OK, as long as the lying is not likely to result in a false confession. Police might lie about having the suspect’s DNA at the crime scene. When multiple offenders are being questioned, police might lie to one suspect about what the other is saying. As long as your Miranda rights have been read before the questioning, the police have no obligation to be truthful with you.


— The Police Cannot Search Your Phone Without A Warrant

The Supreme Court has held that the data contained on your phone “cannot itself be used as a weapon to harm an arresting officer or to effectuate the arrestee’s escape.” For that reason, the police do not have a right to search the contents of your phone, even after your arrest. While you will be subject to a pat-down upon your arrest, your phone is considered private and cannot be searched without a warrant. If police suspect that you may have evidence on your cell phone, they will need to convince a judge to give them a search warrant before they can look through it.


— You Have The Right To Record Police Officers In Public

Recording the police.

You may have seen cell phone videos on the Internet of interactions with police officers, and you have the right to film or record officers most of the time. If you are in a public outdoor area, you can legally record police officers. An officer cannot command you to stop recording. You can also film police officers on private property as long as you have the owner’s permission. Some officers might ask you to delete the footage, but you are under no legal requirement to do so. Remember that the officer cannot search your phone without a search warrant.


— Police Can Search Your Abandoned Property

Once you abandon your property, it is fair game for the police to search. You should also know that it doesn’t take much for property to be considered abandoned. For example, placing your trash on the street for pickup allows a police officer to search through your trash can. If you leave your suitcase outside the restroom in an airport, it is considered abandoned. An officer may search through the contents without a search warrant. If you leave your property unattended, even if you do so accidentally, you have no more expectations of privacy, and your Fourth Amendment rights to that property are gone.


— You Can Refuse Consent To A Search

This frequently happens during traffic stops. An officer might ask you whether they can search your vehicle. In some cases, they might ask to search your clothes or pockets. You do not have to allow the search, and you can refuse to give your consent. If an improper search is conducted, any evidence gathered during the search will not be admissible in court.

There are a few exceptions to this rule, though. Someone suspected of criminal activity will be subject to a pat-down during their detainment. Likewise, a search may be conducted if the officer sees evidence of a crime in plain sight. If there is any question, you can verbally inform the officer that you do not consent to a search. This will help protect your rights so that your criminal defense attorney can review the situation to determine whether the search was legal or not


— You Have The Right To Read The Details Of A Search Warrant

If the police show up at your home with a search warrant, you have the right to know what the warrant says. A search warrant is usually quite specific. The warrant will describe exactly where police can search and what they should be looking for. If the police search an area not included on the warrant, any evidence gathered there will most likely not be admissible in court. Remember that even if the police have a search warrant, you are still not required to answer any of their questions. You are under no obligation to help them search or provide them with any details during the search.


— You Can Refuse To Answer Any Questions

Most people know what a Miranda warning is, and this protection gives you the right to remain silent when questioned by the police. You have a constitutional right to silence during police questioning. If you inform the officers that you want an attorney, they cannot continue to ask you questions. Most criminal law firms would likely advise you to exercise this right and remain silent until you speak with an attorney.

Remember that, in some states, you do have a duty to provide your name and some identifying information to police officers when asked. However, this rule usually only applies when they have some reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed. Otherwise, you don’t have a duty to answer any of their questions.


— The Police Can Obtain Your DNA Through Trickery

DNA swab on top of police evidence folder.

You might think that police need a search warrant to obtain your DNA. That might be true under many circumstances, but they can sometimes trick you into providing your DNA. Think back to the abandoned property rule above. Once you abandon property, you no longer have Fourth Amendment protection against searches of that property. This is how the police can trick you into providing your DNA.

If they offer you a bottle of water or a cigarette at the police station, they might be trying to trick you into providing your DNA. Once you drink from the bottle, your DNA will be transferred to  it. As soon as you get up and leave the bottle on the table, they have your DNA. Throwing the bottle in the trash won’t prevent the police from getting your DNA from it.


— Everything You Say Is On The Record

Anything and everything that you say to the police is on the record, and it could potentially be used against you in court. There are no “off the record” conversations with police, and most conversations are being recorded. Even phone calls from the police station are recorded unless you have arranged a phone call to your attorney. So, never say anything during any encounter with the police that you do not want on the record.


Know Your Rights — How To Handle Police Interactions

Some people attempt to take some of these rights to the extreme, and it sometimes results in a bad situation. Knowing how to handle police interactions will usually result in a much calmer and more pleasant interaction. You may have seen videos of a traffic stop in which the person is yelling at the officer and demanding the officer’s badge number and patrol car number. These situations often escalate into the driver getting detained and arrested.

You should always remain calm when interacting with the police and be respectful. If you believe you have a right to disagree with a command they have given you, then you should calmly tell them the reason for that. In some situations, it might be in your best interest to state your verbal refusal to consent while ultimately complying with the command. This can prevent things from getting out of hand while still preserving your rights in the event the case goes to trial.

The ACLU provides some good resources to help you know your rights and how to handle police encounters. You should still be calm and respectful when exercising your rights. Getting physical or angry only escalates the situation, and things usually do not end well once that happens.


The Bottom Line

The U.S. Constitution provides many rights for people in America, and state laws also provide some additional rights beyond what the Constitution affords. Many of these rights are well known, but some of them are more obscure. In some situations, the police do not want you to know about many of these rights. However, you can exercise these rights during police encounters, and these rights will be upheld in court.


Frequently Asked Questions


Can a cop handcuff you without reading your rights?

Yes, the police can handcuff you without reading your rights. Handcuffs are typically used when someone is arrested or detained. A suspected criminal might be handcuffed for safety reasons during detainment. The police are not required to read your rights at the time you are handcuffed. However, they do need to read your rights before they ask you any questions. If the police question you without reading your rights, then any statements you make could get thrown out as evidence.


Can police search your house without a warrant?

No, the police cannot search your house without a warrant. When it comes to illegal searches and seizures, your home is one of the places where you have the most protection. There are only a couple of limited exceptions that allow the police to come inside your home without a warrant. First, if you invite the police inside, they can use any evidence that they see in plain view. Next, if they are in hot pursuit, they can likely enter your home without a warrant. For example, if they are chasing you after a crime and you run into your home, they could enter without a warrant.


Do police need a warrant to search your car?

Yes, most of the time the police will need a search warrant to look through your car. The police cannot pull you over for a traffic stop and search your car without a warrant. However, there are a couple of exceptions to this rule. For example, if an officer sees drugs in plain view, this gives him probable cause to search the vehicle. Similarly, if you are arrested during the stop, the police may conduct an incidental search.


Can you refuse to identify yourself to the police?

If you are in a public place and not suspected of a crime, you can refuse to identify yourself to the police. However, the situation changes once you become suspected of a crime. Many states require that you provide your identification to the police in this situation. Some states only have this requirement for very specific crimes, while other states require you to provide ID if suspected of nearly any crime. These states are known as “Stop and ID” states.