17 Things Cops Shouldn’t Do if You’re Under Arrest

Written By Jill Taylor

There are many things that could result in your arrest, but if you do happen to encounter the law, there are some things the police cannot. We have made a list of 17 things the police should not do if you are arrested, and that you have the right to legally challenge.

Search You Without a Warrant

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According to the United States Courts, the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution protects you from unlawful searches. Searching without a warrant violates your constitutional rights, but there are some exceptions. If police have reason to believe you have committed a crime, they also have the right to search you.

Force You to Speak Without Representation

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You have the right to remain silent and have no legal obligation to speak without a lawyer present. The police can’t force you to talk without having representation. Anything you say can be used as evidence, so make sure you stay quiet until you have legal counsel.

Make You Sign Something You Don’t Understand

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It is crucial that you understand every aspect of what you are agreeing to before you sign any documentation. Many of the documents given to you by the police waive your rights, so you need to be crystal clear on its meaning before you put your mark on the dotted line.

Detain You Without Cause

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For you to be detained, the police need to either have a warrant or a probable cause. Without this, they have no right to detain you. If you are not sure why you are being detained, you always have the right to seek clarity and find out the reason.

Use Excessive Force

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Cops should only use force that is absolutely necessary, but police brutality is a major problem in the U.S. right now. Amnesty International says that unlawful use of force is a human rights issue and a threat to life. The most prolific example is George Floyd who died following a police encounter in 2020.

Racially Profile You

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Every individual has the same legal rights, regardless of gender or race. Under no circumstances should the police ever discriminate based on your ethnicity. All arrests should be treated the same and if you feel you are a victim of prejudice, make sure to talk about this with your lawyer.

Deny You Medical Attention

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You always have the right to receive medical attention, even if an arrest is in progress. You have the right to receive treatment if you are injured or have a health concern. Always tell the police if you feel you require healthcare, but be aware that an officer will need to remain with you while you receive treatment.

Intimidate You

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The police can be very intimidating as it is, but they should never intentionally use tactics to intimidate. They should never threaten or manipulate you to try and get you to confess to something. This is one of the most important reasons why you should always wait for a lawyer to be present.

Not Allow You Food or Water

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Even when you are detained, you have the right to receive food and water. The police have a duty of care to all detainees, and this includes frequent delivery of food and water to cells. The Association for the Prevention of Torture states that failure to meet these basic requirements is inhumane.

Refuse to Let You Use the Bathroom

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Access to bathroom facilities is one of the basic human rights that the police can’t deny. You must be allowed to use the toilet and preventing this is a concern to health, hygiene, and welfare. If you are detained, your holding cell should have a toilet that you can use whenever you need.

Deny You Access to Family

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Unless restricted by a court order, the police can’t stop you from contacting your loved ones when you are arrested. While the concept of receiving ‘one phone call’ is popularized by movies and TV, it is more of a myth. You always have the right to let someone know that you have been arrested. 

Detain You Without Charges

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There is a small window of time in which you can be detained after your arrest without being charged. Within a reasonable time frame, authorities must either formally charge you or release you. You can’t be detained indefinitely without being charged with a crime.

Deny Legal Representation

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You always have the right to be represented by a lawyer when you have been arrested. The police can’t deny you legal representation and they should never interfere with this right. If you can’t afford an attorney, a public defender should be appointed to represent you.

Treat You Inhumanely

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Cops should always treat you with dignity and respect, even during an arrest. Regardless of the circumstances, the Constitution protects everyone in police custody from any act of torture or mistreatment. These are basic human rights standards that are enforced by law and should always be followed by police.

Arrest You Without Identification

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During your arrest, the police should always show you their formal identification. It is standard procedure during an arrest for cops to show you their badge. Any police official arresting you without proper identification is carrying out an unlawful arrest. It is important that you know your rights surrounding this.

Deny You a Trial

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Regardless of the crime, you always have the right to a trial. The trial process is a fair and impartial way to sentence crimes through unbiased opinions from a jury. Congress.gov says that the Sixth Amendment protects your right to a public trial in all criminal prosecutions.

Detain You in Unsafe Conditions

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When you are arrested, your holding cell should always meet standards that guarantee your health and safety. Authorities must ensure that their detention facilities have adequate ventilation, sanitation, and protection from hazards. Safety should be prioritized just as highly as security in a prison.

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