Types of Police Interactions

Interactions with the police, for many people, are unavoidable. It’s important for us all to understand the types of police interactions, what we should do during them, and our rights when dealing with them.

In general, there are three types of interactions with the police: (1) a consensual encounter, (2) an investigatory stop and (3) a full arrest or seizure.

  1. Consensual Encounters

A consensual encounter is pretty intuitive. It can be any day-to-day interaction with a police officer. Perhaps you are a witness to a crime, or could help find a subject. Either way you’re allowed to leave and terminate the interaction at any time. You are not detained, and you have no obligation to stay or speak to the officer in question.

That being said, you may find it your civic duty to stay and offer the information you have to help the police. Unless, of course what you have to say could make you a suspect -- then you should never talk.

    2. Investigatory Stop

An investigatory stop occurs when the police have a reasonable articulable suspicion to stop you.  

For example, the police may see you walking in a suspicious manner around a bank and suspect you of trying to rob it. They have the right to stop you and ask you questions. If you tell the officer that you just couldn’t find the ATM and then point out that you notice it on the other side of the building, the officer now has no reason to suspect you and should let you go. At that point the officer has dispelled the underlying suspicion that gave him the reason to stop you in the first place.

    3. Full Arrest or Seizures

In the case of an arrest, the police detain you, and most likely haul you into some kind of interrogation room or a holding cell, to be booked into jail. For the police to arrest you they need probable cause.

Generally, to arrest you, the police have to have an arrest warrant supported by a probable cause and signed by an attached magistrate or judge. There are exceptions, for instance if the police officer sees you commit a crime or they have sufficient probable cause they can make an arrest then and there.

If you are unfortunate enough to be arrested, it is important to keep the Miranda warnings in mind. Also remember that you should never talk to the police under any circumstances if you’re ever suspected of a crime.

The Miranda warnings only apply if you’re in custody and the police are interrogating you. If you are in the back seat of a police car and make a statement without being interrogated, that can be used against you, regardless if they read you your Miranda rights.

If you are suspected of a crime, always, always, ALWAYS, keep your mouth shut. Under no circumstances should you talk to anyone except your attorney.

For more information on police interactions or criminal law, visit Kevin Vagovic on the web, at VagovicLaw.com or give us a call at (386) 265-0900.