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What Should You Do if You are Stopped by the Police?

We’ve all done it: looked down nervously at our speedometer when we see an officer on the roadway behind us, or panicked slightly when an officer actually pulls us over. Did you know that your legal rights changed based on the level of interaction a police officer has with you? Did you know, that unlike what you see on TV, an officer does not have to read you your Miranda Rights when he is arresting you?

On one hand, we are taught to respect officers and you’re torn between complying with their requests and protecting your own interests. So what should you do if the police make contact with you? Having watched literally thousands of police stops and encounters throughout my career as a prosecutor and now as a criminal defense attorney, here are some basic tips that should help you understand your rights during and after a police encounter.

Before we get started, remember that you can protect your rights in nearly every situation while remaining polite and courteous to the officer. The officer has a job to do, but remember in most circumstances it is not his job to tell you what rights you have, and it is never his job to tell you how to best exercise your rights.

1. Ask if You are Free to Leave.

Consensual Encounter

  • (Q: Am I free to leave? A: Yes.)

Consensual encounters are just that. An officer walks up to you and starts talking. He may ask you questions. Most people don’t realize that an officer will never tell you that he’s making a “consensual encounter” with you. Most people see an officer in a uniform with a gun and a badge, and they answer questions. Instead, ask if you are free to go.

  • To determine if the interaction is a “consensual encounter,” ask if you are free to leave.
  • If the answer is “yes,” walk away.
  • If the officer says, “no” and that you are not free to leave, ask if you are being arrested or detained.

What Should You Do if You are Stopped by the Police?


  • (Q: Am I free to leave? A: No.)
  • The officer must have Reasonable Suspicion to make a lawful detention.
  • Reasonable suspicion exists if the officer has specific, articulable facts that, when combined with rational inferences from those facts, would lead him to reasonably conclude that a particular person actually is, has been, or soon will be engaged in criminal activity.”
  • You do not have to answer questions, so don’t.
  • Remember the officer has a job to do. He can do that job without your confession. Answering questionsdoesnot make the officer believe you have “nothing to hide.” Not answering questions is not a sign of guilt. (But be sure to follow the next step.
  • Speak up to exercise your right to remain silent.
  • This is counter-intuitive. You shouldn’t just remain silent. Tell the officer that you are exercising your right to remain silent.
  • You do not have a constitutional right to consult with an attorney at this point. You can still ask for one as you are invoking your right to remain silent.
  • In Texas, you do not have to identify yourself if you are being detained. (If you are in a vehicle, you do have to show the officer your license.)
  • An officer may at this point ask you to step out of your vehicle for officer safety.
  • An officer may pat you down for officer safety.
  • Remember to be polite. Remember the officer is concerned for his own safety as well. Keep your hands where the officer can see them. Do not step out of the vehicle unless you are asked to do so.

Occasionally you may hear an officer call out a “10 code” to tell dispatch why you are being detained, investigated, or arrested. The official list of 10 codes are:

  • 10-0 Caution
  • 10-1 Unable to copy — change location
  • 10-2 Signal good
  • 10-3 Stop transmitting
  • 10-4 Acknowledgement (OK)
  • 10-5 Relay
  • 10-6 Busy — stand by unless urgent
  • 10-7 Out of service
  • 10-8 In service
  • 10-9 Repeat
  • 10-10 Fight in progress
  • 10-11 Dog case
  • 10-12 Stand by (stop)
  • 10-13 Weather — road report
  • 10-14 Prowler report
  • 10-15 Civil disturbance
  • 10-16 Domestic disturbance
  • 10-17 Meet complainant
  • 10-18 Quickly
  • 10-19 Return to …
  • 10-20 Location
  • 10-21 Call … by telephone
  • 10-22 Disregard
  • 10-23 Arrived at scene
  • 10-24 Assignment completed
  • 10-25 Report in person (meet) …
  • 10-26 Detaining subject, expedite
  • 10-27 Drivers license information
  • 10-28 Vehicle registration information
  • 10-29 Check for wanted
  • 10-30 Unnecessary use of radio
  • 10-31 Crime in progress
  • 10-32 Man with gun
  • 10-33 Emergency
  • 10-34 Riot
  • 10-35 Major crime alert
  • 10-36 Correct time
  • 10-37 (Investigate) suspicious vehicle
  • 10-38 Stopping suspicious vehicle
  • 10-39 Urgent — use light, siren
  • 10-40 Silent run — no light, siren
  • 10-41 Beginning tour of duty
  • 10-42 Ending tour of duty
  • 10-43 Information
  • 10-44 Permission to leave … for …
  • 10-45 Animal carcass at …
  • 10-46 Assist motorist
  • 10-47 Emergency road repairs at …
  • 10-48 Traffic standard repair at …
  • 10-49 Traffic light out at …
  • 10-50 Accident (fatal, personal injury, property damage)
  • 10-51 Wrecker needed
  • 10-52 Ambulance needed
  • 10-53 Road blocked at …
  • 10-54 Livestock on highway
  • 10-55 Suspected DUI
  • 10-56 Intoxicated pedestrian
  • 10-57 Hit and run (fatal, personal injury, property damage)
  • 10-58 Direct traffic
  • 10-59 Convoy or escort
  • 10-60 Squad in vicinity
  • 10-61 Isolate self for message
  • 10-62 Reply to message
  • 10-63 Prepare to make written copy
  • 10-64 Message for local delivery
  • 10-65 Net message assignment
  • 10-66 Message cancellation
  • 10-67 Clear for net message
  • 10-68 Dispatch information
  • 10-69 Message received
  • 10-70 Fire
  • 10-71 Advise nature of fire
  • 10-72 Report progress on fire
  • 10-73 Smoke report
  • 10-74 Negative
  • 10-75 In contact with …
  • 10-76 En route …
  • 10-77 ETA (estimated time of arrival)
  • 10-78 Need assistance
  • 10-79 Notify coroner
  • 10-80 Chase in progress
  • 10-81 Breathalyzer
  • 10-82 Reserve lodging
  • 10-83 Work school xing at …
  • 10-84 If meeting … advise ETA
  • 10-85 Delayed due to …
  • 10-86 Officer/operator on duty
  • 10-87 Pick up/distribute checks
  • 10-88 Present telephone number of …
  • 10-89 Bomb threat
  • 10-90 Bank alarm at …
  • 10-91 Pick up prisoner/subject
  • 10-92 Improperly parked vehicle
  • 10-93 Blockade
  • 10-94 Drag racing
  • 10-95 Prisoner/subject in custody
  • 10-96 Mental subject
  • 10-97 Check (test) signal
  • 10-98 Prison/jail break
  • 10-99 Wanted/stolen indicated

2. Speak up to Remain Silent. Ask for an Attorney.


  • Miranda does not apply. The officer does not have to read you Miranda Rights if you are just being arrested.
  • The officer must have Probable Cause to make a lawful arrest.
  • Probable cause for an arrest exists where, at that moment, facts and circumstances within the knowledge of the arresting officer, and of which he has reasonably trustworthy information, would warrant a reasonably prudent person in believing that a particular person has committed or is committing a crime.”
  • You do not have to answer questions, so don’t.
  • Miranda is not required to be read to you if you are merely arrested and not questioned.
  • You must identify yourself if you are arrested.
  • After identifying yourself, tell the officer that you are exercising your right to remain silent
  • An officer can arrest a person for any offense
  • An officer may search your person after you have been arrested.

Arrest + Questioning

  • Miranda applies and you must be informed of your rights.
  • If you have been arrested and are questioned, you do have a right to an attorney under the 5th Amendment. Ask for your attorney.
  • Remain silent. Speak up to exercise your right to remain silent.
  • In Texas, this is the first time you are required to identify yourself

It’s worth pointing out detectives often invite suspects down to the police station to come in on their own and give the police “their side of the story.” This is a ploy used to get a confession or corroborating evidence out of you. The detectives know if you come down voluntarily, you have made a consensual encounter with the police and they don’t have to tell you that you have a right to a criminal defense attorney or a right to remain silent. The police may even have an arrest warrant already signed and chose not to arrest you at that time. Because the standard for arrest (probable cause) is set so low, I have never seen an individual talk themselves out of an arrest without the assistance and advice of an attorney.

Why are they called Miranda Warnings?

Miranda warnings are so named after the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case, Miranda v. Arizona (1966). In this case, the court ruled that suspects in custody must be informed of their constitutional rights before being interrogated by law enforcement. The decision was based on the case of Ernesto Miranda, who had been arrested, interrogated, and confessed to a crime without being informed of his rights. The warnings, which are now required to be given to suspects in custody, include the right to remain silent, the understanding that anything they say can be used against them in court, the right to an attorney, and the right to have an attorney appointed if they cannot afford one. These rights, derived from the Fifth and Sixth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, are collectively known as “Miranda rights,” and the process of informing suspects of these rights is called “Miranda warnings.”


  • You will be processed into police custody.
  • You must identify yourself.
  • You have a right to an attorney under the 5th Amendment.
  • Texas Administrative Code Section 291.1 provides the ability to make two completed phone calls immediately after booking.

3. Getting Out of Jail if You Are Arrested


  • The magistrate will inform you of the charges against you and set a bail amount.
  • Continue to exercise your right to remain silent in regards to any allegation against you.
  • You now have a right to an attorney both under the 5th Amendment and 6th Amendment.
  • In Texas, within 48 hours of arrest, the arrestee must be taken in front of a magistrate who must inform the arrestee of the accusation against them and inform them of their right to an attorney under the Sixth Amendment of United States.

Bonding Out

  • Once the bond has been set, you may bond out.
  • If you post a cash bond, and pay the entire bond amount, you will receive your cash bond back from the court upon final resolution of your case.
  • If you use a bondsman, you will pay a non-refundable fee to get bonded out. This fee is generally between 10 and 20% of the bond amount.

Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer

  • If you have not called a lawyer yet, you should either call a criminal defense attorney or have a family member call a criminal defense attorney immediately. An experienced criminal defense attorney can guide you through the process and defend you through the criminal process.

If you have been arrested for a criminal offense call us today at (817) 203-2220 for a complimentary strategy session.

During this call we will:

  • Discuss the facts of your case;
  • Discuss the legal issues involved, including the direct and collateral consequences of the allegation; and
  • Discuss the defenses that apply to your plan and in general terms discuss our approach to your case.

You can also contact us online.

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