Law Enforcement

You do not have to allow any law enforcement officer or agent to enter your home or office, unless they have a search warrant. Agents must have a search warrant to enter your house, except in an emergency situation (in hot pursuit of a suspect to a crime). Even with a search warrant, you are under no obligation to answer any questions without a lawyer present. Make it clear to the agent that you do not consent to the search so that they cannot go beyond what the warrant authorizes.

You have the right to ask any law enforcement or agent for an officer’s badge number, name or other identifying information. This identifying information is crucial where the law enforcement officer or agent discriminates against you or mistreats you.

You are not obligated to immediately speak to an FBI agent. Ask the agent for his or her contact information so that you will be able to get back in touch with them later. If you are visited in person, ask for a business card. The agent must provide you his or her contact information upon your request.

You have a right to Miranda warnings if you are arrested. Note that anything you say to an agent or officer can be used against you in a court of law. The Miranda warnings apprise an arrestee of the right to obtain counsel and the right to remain silent.

You have a Constitutional right to remain silent. It is not a crime to refuse to answer questions. You do not have to talk to anyone, even if you have been arrested or are in jail. You should affirmatively and unambiguously state that you wish to remain silent and that you wish to consult an attorney. Once you make the request to speak to a lawyer, do not say anything else. If you have already answered some questions, you can refuse to answer other questions until you have a lawyer. Depending on state laws, you may have to provide your name for identity purposes.

You have the right to have an attorney present when speaking to an agent. This right is extended to both citizens and non-citizens, including student visa holders. You have the right to an attorney even if detained for immigration issues. Non-citizens arrested in the U.S. have the right to call their consulate or to have the police tell the consulate of your arrest. The police must let your consulate visit or speak with you if consular officials decide to do so. If you cannot afford an attorney, or do not know of one in your area, call the ADC Legal Department at (202) 244-2990 or send an email to legal@adc.org. ADC will do its best to provide third party observers in cases for which community members would want such additional safeguards.

Enter an interview with the understanding that the interviewee has absolute discretion as to what questions to answer. For example, one may choose to answer questions about their neighborhood or activity they may deem suspicious and yet refuse to answer any questions regarding their immigration status.

You have the right to freedom of speech. You are free to express yourself and to state your opinion. The First Amendment protects groups and individuals who peacefully advocate for their rights or who oppose government policies. Note that freedom of speech is not absolute and is subject to a few limited constitutional exceptions and regulations, including: obscenity, fighting words, commercial speech, incitement, child pornography, and defamation.

It is illegal for law enforcement to perform any stops, searches, detentions or removals based solely on your race, national origin, religion, sex or ethnicity. This also applies at airports, your place of employment, educational institutions, and private and/or public forums.