Interacting with the police is often unavoidable. And, when this happens, you might feel nervous, scared or confused. You may wonder how to avoid getting into trouble.
Be polite and respectful
It may seem obvious, but the most important tip is to be polite and respectful to the police officers, always, and even when they are not being polite and respectful to you. This does not mean that you have to agree with everything they say or do, or that you have to give up your rights. It just means that you should avoid being rude, aggressive or confrontational.
Remember that the police are human beings too, and they are more likely to respond positively to someone who is calm and cooperative than someone who is hostile and defiant. Even if you are in the right, being rude, aggressive or confrontational can be a quick way to escalate a situation.
It may seem pedantic, but part of being polite and respectful also means using proper language and manners. In Texas, that means using, “sir” and “ma’am” when addressing a police officer, and saying, “thank you” after the police officer does something for you, like giving you directions or returning your documents.
Know your rights
The next tip is to know your rights because other than survival, the other goal is mitigation. With every police encounter, you want to mitigate the negative impact that encounter has on any subsequent case or charge against you, which usually means invoking your rights or at least, knowing your rights and when to use them.
The most important right you have is the right to remain silent. You do not have to answer questions related to a crime or a criminal investigation, but you do have to produce your driver’s license and insurance, if you were pulled over.
Your next most important right is the right to refuse consent to a search. Just because the police ask to search does not mean that you have to let them. Though, this does not mean you can physically stop them. If they choose to break the law, document it, make sure you clearly state you do not give consent, get as much information about the officers as you can and you file a case later.
Be careful what you say
Finally, be careful what you say when talking to Texas police officers. It is best to avoid saying anything to them because anything can be misconstrued into an admission of guilt or a sign of complicity. Plus, lies and excuses could get you into further trouble.