Know Your Legal Rights When It Comes to Law Enforcement in Missouri

Kimberly2 1Author:

Kimberly J. Benjamin, Founder & Managing Attorney

Sometimes it can be stressful, upsetting, and confusing to have an encounter with a police officer in Missouri. However, knowing your rights can help you have an easier time whenever you encounter law enforcement.

Whether or not you believe that you’re guilty of something when a police officer stops you, there are certain legal rights that you need to always keep in mind to save yourself the worry, confusion, and even a potential fine or prison time. Keep reading to discover how you can handle a law enforcement interaction appropriately.


What should you do if you’re stopped by a police officer?

A police officer has the right to stop you if they see you breaking the law or if they suspect that you have broken the law. When they approach you, in most cases, the first thing they do is ask questions. It’s not always necessary to answer their questions; nonetheless, you need to be polite.

You can give them any basic identifying information, such as your name. If they proceed with the questions, you have the right to say “I choose to remain silent” and then say, “I want to speak to a lawyer.” The police officer should stop asking you questions once you say that. Remember that the police can use anything you say against you in court.


What if the police officer insists on searching you?

Usually, police officers in Missouri can only search you if you’ve consented to the process, or if they’ve placed you under arrest. However, if the police officer finds you in a vehicle or another place that contains illegal weapons, and they have reason to think that you’re carrying an illegal weapon too, you should allow the search.

Under such circumstances, the search is considered necessary because you may remove or destroy the weapon when they leave to get a search warrant.


What if the police officer asks to search your office or home?

Police officers are required to produce a warrant or get your approval before searching your home. If you are not around, they can conduct the process if a guest or your roommate consents, and the officer believes that the person has the authority to consent. The officer cannot proceed to search your office if they don’t have your employer’s consent or a search warrant. In this case, your consent won’t matter.

If the law enforcement officers conduct the search in your home without a search warrant or consent, avoid interfering with the search in any way; doing so can get you arrested. Just state clearly that you haven’t allowed them to search your home, and even try to look for someone nearby to witness that the officer is searching your home without your permission. If possible, note the name and badge number of the police officer and call an attorney immediately.


What should you do if you’re taken to the police station?

Depending on the situation, the police officer can decide to arrest you if they have a solid reason to do so. Do not resist the process. Just remember that you don’t have to answer any questions if they do so.

Ask for a lawyer immediately. When they take you to the police station, repeat this request to any police officer who tries talking or questioning you. Your lawyer should be the first person you converse with after being arrested or detained.


Contact us

Being able to know what to say and what to do during a law enforcement encounter can make the whole process easier for you and protect you from police mistreatment. If you need more details concerning what to do when a police officer stops you, particularly if you believe you may be the subject of an investigation, reach out to the Missouri DWI & Criminal Law Center. We have the resources to help you prepare for any potential law enforcement encounter. Call us at (816) 322-8008 if you have any further questions.

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