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You might find yourself in any number of situations during the course of a typical (or not so typical) day where you encounter a Pennsylvania police officer. Perhaps you merely see an officer pulling someone over in a traffic stop. Then again, perhaps that someone is you. If that’s the case, or if a cop shows up at your door while you’re at home, it’s critical that you know your rights and how to protect them.

It’s always a bad idea to assume that nothing much will come of a police encounter. You might think that and then feel shocked when you wind up in handcuffs, riding to a county jail in the back of a patrol car. It can happen. Much depends on the details of a particular situation, as well as what you say and do while interacting with police. Knowing your rights ahead of time can prevent a lot of problems down the line, especially if you face criminal charges.

Police do not have free rein

Every Pennsylvania police officer is legally bound by certain laws and restrictions. If an officer detains you or approaches you in an official capacity, try to remember the things mentioned in the following list: 

  • You don’t have to consent to a search if the officer in question doesn’t have a valid search warrant. There are exceptions, such as if the officer can show evidence that he or she believed you were acting as a threat to public safety at the time. 
  • If a police officer knocks on your door and doesn’t have a warrant, you do not have to allow him or her inside your home. 
  • A judge may deem evidence shown in court, acquired without a proper warrant, inadmissible.
  • Police may not obtain search warrants by random request. They must prove that they have reasonable or justified cause to make the request.

The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects you against unlawful searches or seizures. For instance, a police officer can’t conduct a stop and frisk unless he or she can show evidence that there was reasonable suspicion that you were involved in a crime. Before, during and following an arrest, you have rights.

If you believe a law official has violated your rights

You do not have to sit back and do nothing if you think someone has violated your rights. Facing criminal charges in Pennsylvania is definitely no small matter. Conviction of even minor crimes can often carry severe penalties. That’s why one of the first requests most defendants make is to speak with an experienced defense attorney who can help determine a best course of action in a particular set of circumstances.