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Your Rights with Law Enforcement
American Muslims strongly support law enforcement and the protection of our national security. As Americans, we also value civil rights. All Americans have the constitutional right to due process and to be politically active.
If you know of any criminal activity taking place in your community, it is both your religious and civic duty to immediately report such activity to local and federal law enforcement agencies.
If you are visited by federal law enforcement agents, remember:
- You have the legal right to have a lawyer present when speaking with federal law enforcement agencies. This is true even if you are not a citizen or have been arrested or detained. This is your legal right. Refusing to answer questions cannot be held against you and does not imply that you have something to hide. Answering a question incorrectly can hurt you more than not answering at all. An attorney is best able to protect your rights.
- You do not have to permit any law enforcement officer to enter your home or office if they do not have warrant. Law enforcement agents must have a search warrant, except in emergency situations, in order to enter your house. If they say they have a warrant, politely ask to see it before allowing them to enter. If they have a warrant, be courteous and polite, but remember that you are under no obligation to answer questions without a lawyer present. You should tell the agents that you do not consent to the search so that they cannot go beyond what the warrant authorizes.
- You should never lie or provide false information to any law enforcement agency. Lying to law enforcement agents under any circumstance is a federal crime.
- Remember to ask any investigator who visits you for a business card so you can give it to your lawyer. At least get the name, contact information and agency of the officer.
If stopped by police:
- On the street: The police must have a specific reason to approach and question you. If you are approached and questioned, the police can pat you down over the outside of your clothing if they have reason to suspect that you are armed and dangerous. You do not have to answer any questions besides identifying who you are and showing a government-issued ID. After the interaction, you will be either free to leave or under arrest. Ask the officer clearly if you are free to leave or if you are under arrest. If you are free to leave, consider just walking away.
- In your car: Keep your hands where they can be seen. If you are driving a vehicle, you must show your license, registration and proof of insurance. You do not have to consent to a search, but police may have legal grounds to search your car anyway. Clearly say that you do not consent to the search. Officers may separate passengers and drivers from each other to question them, but no one has to answer any questions.
- If arrested or taken to a police station: Remember you do not have to talk to any police officer even if you have been arrested or detained. Clearly ask for a lawyer and one phone call until they are provided. If you cannot afford a lawyer, the government has to provide one.
- If mistreated: Do not resist arrest or fight with any police officers. Write down the officer’s name, badge number and any other identifying information. Try to find witnesses and write down their contact information. File a complaint with CAIR as soon after the event as possible.
Your rights if contacted by DHS:
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) includes the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
If you are not a U.S. citizen and are contacted by a DHS official, remember:
- You have the right to an attorney. It is a good idea to carry the contact information of an immigration attorney who can help you.
- Never sign anything without reading, understanding and knowing the consequences of signing it. You have the right to have an attorney visit you if you are in detention and represent you at any immigration hearings.
- Federal law requires you to carry your registration documents with you at all times. Once your immigration status has been shown to an officer, you do not have to answer any other questions without having a lawyer present.
- You should not be asked improper questions. No DHS officer may ask you anything about your religious or political beliefs, groups that you belong to or contribute to, things that you have done or said in the past, or where you have traveled.