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What rights do I have?
or not you’re a citizen, you have these constitutional rights:
Right to Remain Silent. The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives
every person the right not to answer questions asked by a police officer
or government agent.
Right to be Free from “Unreasonable Searches and Seizures”. The Fourth
Amendment is supposed to protect your privacy. Without a warrant, police
or government agents may not search your home or office without your
consent, and you have the right to refuse to let them in. They can enter
and search without a warrant in an emergency. New laws have expanded the
government’s authority to conduct surveillance.
Right to Advocate for Change. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
protects the rights of groups and individuals who advocate changes in laws,
government practices, and even the form of government.
However, the INS can target non-citizens for deportation because of
their First Amendment activities, as long as it could deport them for
RIGHTS CANNOT BE SUSPENDED– EVEN DURING A STATE OF EMERGENCY OR WARTIME—AND
THEY HAVE NOT BEEN SUSPENDED BY THE “USA PATRIOT ACT” OR OTHER RECENT
What if the police or FBI contact me?
if agents come to question me?
DO NOT HAVE TO TALK TO THE POLICE, FBI, INS, OR ANY OTHER LAW ENFORCEMENT
AGENT OR INVESTIGATOR
can’t lawfully be arrested for refusing to identify yourself on the
street, although this may make the police suspicious, and police and other
agents do not always follow the law.
If you are driving a vehicle, you must show your license and
registration. Otherwise, you
do not have to talk to anyone: on the street, at your home or office, if
you’ve been arrested, or even if you’re in jail. Only a judge has the
legal authority to order you to answer questions.
I need a lawyer?
YOU ARE CONTACTED, TELL THE AGENT YOU WANT TO TALK TO A LAWYER
you say this, they should stop trying to question you and should make any
further contact through your lawyer. You have the right to say that you
want to talk to a lawyer even if you do not already have one. Remember to
get the name, agency, and telephone number of any investigator who calls
or visits you, and call a criminal or immigration lawyer, before deciding
whether to answer questions. If you do agree to be interviewed, you have
the right to have a lawyer present. The government does not have to
provide you with a free lawyer unless you are charged with a crime, but
charitable/religious organizations may be able to find you a lawyer for
free or a reduced rate.
I refuse to answer questions or if I say I want a lawyer, won’t it seem
like I have something to hide?
TO THE FBI OR OTHER AGENTS CAN BE DANGEROUS
can never tell how a seemingly harmless bit of information might be used
to hurt you or someone else. That is why the right not to talk is a
fundamental right under our Constitution. The FBI is not just trying to
find terrorists, but is gathering information on immigrants and activists
who have done nothing wrong. And keep in mind that even though they are
allowed to and do lie to you, lying to a federal agent is a crime. The
safest things to say are “I am going to remain silent”, “I want to
speak to my lawyer”, and “I do not consent to a search.”
agents search my home, apartment or office?
DO NOT HAVE TO LET POLICE OR OTHER LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENTS INTO YOUR HOME
OR OFFICE UNLESS THEY HAVE A SEARCH WARRANT
your roommate or guest can legally consent to a search of your house if
the police believe that person has the authority to give consent and your
employer can consent to a search of your office, factory or workplace. Do
not try to physically interfere with the police or agents, even if the
search is illegal, or you will likely be arrested. Say “I do not consent
to a search.” Do not answer any questions. Call a criminal lawyer.
agents come to arrest me in my home, can they search my home?
can search the area near where you are arrested but not your entire house,
unless they have a search warrant.
if I am not at home?
the new “USA Patriot Act”, under certain circumstances agents may
surreptitiously search and not notify you until afterward, perhaps a long
time afterward. It is uncertain whether this provision will stand up in
light of the Fourth Amendment. If you suspect your home or office has been
searched or that you are under surveillance, contact a criminal lawyer.
if they do have a search warrant?
TO SEE THE WARRANT
warrant must tell in detail the places to be searched and the people or
things to be seized. If the police have a warrant, you cannot stop them
from entering and searching, but you should still tell them that you do
not consent to a search. This will limit them to search only where the
warrant authorizes. Ask if you are allowed to watch the search and if so,
watch and take notes including names, badge numbers, and what agency the
officers are from. Have friends act as witnesses. Give this information to
your lawyer. If the officers ask you to give them documents, your computer,
or anything else, look to see if the item is listed in the warrant. If it
is not, do not consent to them taking it without talking to a lawyer. Even
if they have a search warrant, you still do not have to answer any
questions. Call a lawyer.
if the police stop me on the street?
IF YOU ARE FREE TO GO.
they say yes, walk away. If you are not free to go, you are being detained,
but this does not necessarily mean you will be arrested. They are entitled
to frisk you. A frisk is a pat down on the outside of your clothing. Do
not consent to any further search. But if they continue, or in some other
way violate your rights, stay calm and don’t physically resist police or
agents. You will only be hurt and arrested.
Stick to “I don’t consent, I want to speak to my lawyer”; get
the officer’s name, badge number, and agency; and call a lawyer at your
first opportunity. You do not
have to answer questions or give a statement if you are detained or even
if you are arrested.
I have to give my name?
you do not have to give your name unless they suspect you of a crime, but
refusing to give your name is likely to arouse suspicion. Be aware that
police/ agents may be carrying a list of deportable aliens.
Giving a false name could be a crime. If you are driving a car, you
must show them your license, registration and proof of insurance, but you
do not have to consent to a search, although the police may have legal
grounds to search your car anyway.
if I am treated badly by the police or FBI?
to remember the officer’s badge number and/or name. You have the right
to ask the officer to identify himself. Write down everything as soon as
you can and try to find witnesses. If you are injured, see a doctor and
take pictures of the injuries as soon as possible. Call a lawyer as soon
What if I am not a citizen and the INS contacts me?
your rights. If you do not demand your rights or if you sign papers
waiving your rights, the INS may deport you before you see a lawyer or an
to a lawyer. Always carry with you the name and telephone number of an
immigration lawyer and who will take your calls. You must carry your
immigration papers such as “green card”, I-94, work authorization with
you as well. The immigration laws are hard to understand and there have
been many changes since September 11. More changes are likely. INS will
not explain your options to you. As soon as you encounter an INS agent,
call your attorney. If you can’t do it right away, keep trying.
talk to an immigration lawyer before leaving the U.S. Even some legal
permanent residents and applicants for LPR can be barred from returning.
Based on today’s laws, non-citizens usually have the rights below,
no matter what your immigration status. However, this information may
change, which is why it’s important to talk to an immigration lawyer.
Also, foreign nationals trying to enter the U.S. at the border or airport
do not have all of these same rights.
usually have the right to talk to a lawyer before answering any questions
or signing any papers. You have the right to call an attorney or your
family if you are detained, and you have the right to be visited by an
attorney in detention. You have the right to have your attorney with you
at any hearing before an immigration judge. You do not have the right to a
government-appointed attorney, so you must hire one or find someone who
will represent you for free.
do not have to answer questions about your immigration status or any other
questions. You are better off talking to a lawyer first.
If you are arrested or detained, the INS must decide in 48 hours
whether to put you into immigration proceedings and whether to keep you in
custody or to release you on bond. However, under new laws, the INS has an
“additional reasonable period of time” past 48 hours in the event of
“an emergency or other extraordinary circumstance” to decide whether
to keep you in custody. Make
sure your attorney talks to national immigration rights organizations if
the INS is keeping you in detention on the basis of these new laws.
most cases, you have the right to ask for release from detention by paying
a bond, or to ask for a bond hearing before an immigration judge. You have
these rights even if you have not been charged by the INS. The law does
not say when an immigration judge must hear your case. The judge may order
you to stay in detention if he or she finds that you are a danger to
society or might try to get away. In some cases, the law says you can’t
be released if you are charged with terrorism or have certain criminal
most cases, you have the right to a hearing before an immigration judge
before you can be deported. But if you waive (give up) your rights or take
“voluntary departure” (agree to leave), you could be deported without
a hearing. If this happens, you may never be able to enter the U.S.
legally again or get legal immigration status. If you have criminal
convictions, were arrested at the border, or have been ordered deported in
the past, you must talk to an attorney about whether you have this right
and what other legal alternatives you might have.