Encounters with the police can be nerve-wracking for anyone, regardless of whether you have done something wrong or not. It is a situation that many hope to avoid. There are a number of misconceptions about how to handle such encounters in New Jersey. These misconceptions can escalate situations or inadvertently waive some of your rights.
When it comes to police questioning, you need to separate the facts from fiction. Dispelling these myths can make the experience less intimidating and more manageable.
Misconception: You must answer all questions
You have the right to remain silent. It is not a sign of guilt, and it is a right designed to protect you. If you choose to speak, stick to the truth, but you can also inform the officer that you do not wish to answer any questions. That is an unalienable right specified in the 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Misconception: If you do not cooperate, it looks guilty
Choosing to exercise your rights, such as not giving consent to a search or opting to remain silent, does not indicate guilt.
Misconception: The police cannot lie to you during questioning
Police may use various tactics during their investigations, including misleading you. They might say they have evidence they do not or claim someone else implicated you in a crime to get a response.
Misconception: You can leave whenever you want
You must ask law enforcement if you are free to go. If you are not under arrest and the police say you can leave, then you may do so. If they detain you, they must have a valid reason.
Misconception: The police always need a warrant to search you or your belongings
There are situations where the police might search you without a warrant, such as if they believe you have evidence related to a crime on your person or if you