Advice for talking to police officers

When police officers show up at your door in Chicago and politely ask if they can come inside or conduct a search, it's very important to know how to talk to them. People sometimes make costly mistakes because they feel nervous or they aren't used to talking to the police. Here are some tips that can help:

-- Don't give your consent. You're not obligated to let the police into your home, no matter what they tell you unless they have a warrant. Don't give consent and let them in without one.

-- If they claim to have a warrant, tell them to show it to you. They're legally obligated to do so. The warrant may also have specific limitations on where they can search. Look into this to make sure they don't violate those instructions and go to a part of your property where they don't have permission to search.

-- Don't say anything. You don't have to talk to the officers if you don't want to. The right to remain silent is something that is read to all people who are being arrested, but it applies even to people who aren't being arrested. Police can ask any questions they want, but you don't have to answer.

-- Don't hand over passwords. If the police do get a warrant so that they can get a computer, a phone, or a similar device, they may then ask you for the password so that they can access the information on it. You don't have to give them the password. Just refuse. They may take the computer or device to try to unlock it elsewhere, but don't assume that the warrant means you have to give them the information they want.

Make sure you remember your rights when talking to the police, and be sure you know if your rights were violated in any way during the search.

Source: Electronic Frontier Foundation, "Tips for Talking to the Police," accessed March 04, 2016

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