ACLU of Illinois

Know Your Rights: Freedom of expression in Chicago
March 15, 2012

What should I do if police stop or arrest me?

If police stop you for questioning in a public place:

•  Stay calm.  Don’t run.  Don’t argue, resist, or obstruct the police, even if you are innocent or police are violating your rights.  Keep your hands where police can see them.

•  Ask if you are free to leave.  If the officer says yes, calmly and silently walk away.  If you are under arrest, you have a right to know why.

•  You have the right to remain silent and cannot be punished for refusing to answer questions.  While you are on foot in a public place in Illinois, if a police officer asks you to identify yourself, you cannot be arrested for refusing to answer, but you can be arrested for giving a false answer.   If you wish to remain silent, tell the officer out loud.  If you do talk to the police, do not lie: doing so often is a crime.

•  You do not have to consent to a search of yourself or your belongings, but police may “pat down” your clothing if they reasonably suspect that you possess a weapon.  You should not physically resist, but you have the right to refuse consent for any further search.  If you do consent, it can affect you later in court.

If police arrest you:

•  Do not resist arrest, even if you believe the arrest is unfair.

•  Say you wish to remain silent and ask for a lawyer immediately.  Don’t give any explanations or excuses.  If you can’t pay for a lawyer, you have the right to a free one, unless a fine is the only penalty for the crimes you are accused of committing.   Don’t say anything, sign anything, or make any decisions without a lawyer.

•  You have the right to make a local phone call.  However, you should not talk about the facts of your case over the phone from jail, because the police might be listening.

•  Prepare yourself and your family in case you are arrested.  Memorize the phone numbers of your family and your lawyer.  Make emergency plans if you have children or take medication.  If you have photo identification with you during an arrest, police can more quickly confirm your identity, and may more quickly release you.

•  If you were arrested for a fine-only offense or for a misdemeanor, you usually will be eligible for prompt release from the police station lock-up pursuant to an individual recognizance bond (often called an “I-bond”).   No more than 48 hours after your arrest, and regardless of the charges, you have the right to appear before a neutral judge.

•  If you are a non-citizen, ask your lawyer about the effect of a criminal conviction or plea on your immigration status.  Don’t discuss your immigration status with anyone but your lawyer.  If an immigration agent visits you in jail, do not answer questions or sign anything before talking to a lawyer.

•  Try to learn and remember the names and badge numbers of all police officers involved in your arrest.  Also, try to remember all the details of your arrest, and write them down as soon as possible.  If you are injured, seek medical attention immediately, photograph your injuries, and obtain a copy of all treatment records.