If you are walking along the street, and the police stop you, it can soon get unnerving. In most cases, when they stop you for a reason. They want information about something.
There is nothing to prevent the police from stopping to chat. Yet, there are limits to how long they can keep you there without a good reason. They typically have more to gain from the conversation than you, so it is wise to keep the chit-chat to a minimum and limit the time you spend in their company. Remember, you do not need to answer their questions.
The police need a reason to stop you from leaving
The police can detain you if they reasonable suspicion you have committed a crime. Here are some questions to help you understand the situation:
- Am I free to leave? If the police ask you to stop, you need to do so. If they approach you, you need to stay where you are. Leaving without their explicit permission could leave you open to accusations of fleeing or evading arrest.
- Are you arresting me? If the police stop you and ask questions, they are detaining you. They can only do that for a limited amount of time without charging you. Being clear about your situation is crucial.
- Can I speak to an attorney? If the officers say they are arresting you, then your next question should not be why or what for, but can I speak to my attorney, please. They have to grant you this request. The crucial thing is to get immediate legal help, to guide you on what you should and should not say or do.
Often the police do not have a valid reason to stop people in the street, and they are hoping that you will say something or do something that gives them a reason to justify their decision. Understanding whether they were stopping you to arrest you, to detain you, or merely to talk about the weather is crucial. It may help you overturn criminal charges that result.