Mark A. Perez, P.C.
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What to do when stopped by a police officer

Being stopped or pulled over by a police officer can be a nerve-wracking experience, even if you don't think you're doing anything wrong. As a person who is new to the country or trying to gain immigration status, talking to a police officer can be a high-stakes encounter. Could criminal charges affect your ability to obtain a visa or citizenship?

If a police officer stops you, you need to know how to interact to avoid escalation of the situation. Immigrants often do not get a second chance if convicted of a crime in the United States. Saying too much or too little could cause an officer to arrest or unintentionally hurt you. The good news is that you are protected under the law, even if you are not a citizen.

· Remain calm and be polite

Treat the officer with respect. Be polite, but firm. The law protects you from mistreatment by a police officer just because you are not a citizen. Constitutional rights apply to everyone in the United States.

· Provide identification

You are required to provide identification when asked by a police officer. If you are pulled over while driving, you may also be required to give proof of car insurance and state registration of the vehicle. Police in Texas are allowed to ask for immigration papers. You should carry your immigration documents with you at all times.

· Do not consent to a search

An officer may want to search your clothing or car if he or she stops you. Police have the right to search areas that are easily accessible to you like your pockets and the glove box and passenger cab of a vehicle.

Tell the officer that you do not consent to any searches. If he or she asks to search your trunk or home, tell them to get a warrant first. A warrant requires permission to search from a judge.

· Ask to speak to an attorney

If you are arrested, you have the right to remain silent. Do not talk to the cop or sign any papers if you are arrested or put in jail. Say, "I want to remain silent. Please let me speak to a lawyer."

If you are charged with a crime, find the help of an attorney who understands criminal and immigration law to protect you.

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