Your Rights During Police Interactions


Knowing your rights is vital, especially during police interactions. You cannot assume that officers will behave in a way that protects your safety or that they will respect your rights even after you assert them.

That’s why the ACLU of Maryland developed our free Know Your Rights program so that you can know how to exercise your rights and what to do when your rights are violated.



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Flex Dancers and ACLU Present: Know Your Rights in Police Encounters

The ACLU teamed up with THE D.R.E.A.M. RING, a company of Brooklyn dancers, to create a ‘Know Your Rights’ video for stop and frisk encounters. Knowing and exercising your rights is not about confronting or physically resisting police officers. It is about surviving.The ACLU teamed up with THE D.R.E.A.M. RING, a company of Brooklyn dancers, to create a ‘Know Your Rights’ video for stop and frisk encounters. Knowing and exercising your rights is not about confronting or physically resisting police officers. It is about surviving.

More in this series

Know Your Rights: What to Do in Police Encounters


Thinking Freely ACLU of Maryland Podcast

In this episode of Thinking Freely, we talked to two experienced Know Your Rights Trainers, Kimi Washington and Gus Griffin, along with Amy Cruice the director of ACLU of Maryland’s Know Your Rights Program, about why knowing your rights are so important, and how you can request a training.

NOTE: This podcast is currently only available in English.

Know Your Rights – Protesting

Know Your Rights

Black person with fist in the air wearing a t-shirt with the names of Black people killed by police

You have the right to peacefully protest and express your opinion, even if it is controversial.

Request a Know Your Rights Training

Request form

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Do you want to Know Your Rights when interacting with police? Then schedule a training with the ACLU of Maryland!


Contact our Civil Rights Advocacy team.

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Here are the two best ways to contact us:

  • Call our Civil Rights Complaint Line on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1–3 p.m.: (443) 524-2558.
  • Use our online intake form.

Police Accountability Self-Advocacy


A person's hands are holding a large protest sign that says, "No Voice Unheard." The background is blurred out but you can see that there are people at a protest. Courtesy credit: Molly Kaplan, ACLU.

From 2015 to 2022, 123 people in Maryland were killed by the police. This number is too great and doesn’t even count the people, families, and whole communities who survive so much physical and mental harm from needless – often racist – run-ins with police. This institutional failure is made worse by flawed “accountability” structures designed to protect police and bypass justice.

The ACLU of Maryland Police Accountability Self-Advocacy toolkit describes ways a person may use existing, though inadequate, accountability structures. We also hope this self-kit will highlight the flaws of the system and encourage you to change it.

NOTE: This resource is currently only available in English.


Police Interactions

Police are, in principle, tasked with keeping us safe and treating us fairly. This resource provides tips for exercising your rights while interacting with police.

Note: State laws vary, and this resource is specific to Maryland.

  • Regardless of your immigration or citizenship status, you have constitutional rights.
  • You have the right to record police actions if you do not interfere with their activities and are not breaking any other law.
  • You have the right to photograph and record police officers performing their job in public.

Key Phrases

  • “Am I being detained, or am I free to go?”
    • If you are not being detained, you are free to go. Calmly tell them you’re exercising your right to leave and slowly walk away.
    • If you are being detained, say “I don’t want to talk without a lawyer.”
  • “I don’t want to talk without a lawyer.”
    • You have the right to remain silent. You have the right to a lawyer if you are arrested. Ask for one immediately.
  • “I don’t consent to searches.”
  • “I don’t consent to this search.”
  • “I can’t let you in without a warrant.”
    • You have the right to refuse to consent to a search of yourself, your car, or your home, with certain exceptions.

If You Are Stopped by Police (Not in Car or Home)

  • If you are stopped by police, say: “Am I being detained, or am I free to go?” If the officer says you are free to go, walk away. If you are not free to leave, you are being detained.
  • If you wish to remain silent, say: “I don’t want to talk to you without a lawyer.” If you are younger than 18 years and you are detained, you are entitled to parent/guardian notification and an attorney. Say the Key Phrases, ask for an attorney, and ask for your parent/guardian.
  • You can say “no” if police ask to search your body or belongings. But, if you are being detained, police may “pat down” the outside of your clothes if they suspect a weapon. If they take the search further (such as, inside your pockets), say “I do not consent to this search.” If you do consent, your consent can affect you later in court.
  • Maryland laws generally do not require you to produce ID to police on request outside of car stops and receiving citation. Montgomery County has a rule that allows police to detain you and requires you to truthfully identify yourself on request, even if you aren’t driving or getting a citation.
  • If you wish to remain silent but are asked for ID, you should first ask, “Am I being detained, or am I free to go?” If you are not free to go, you may give a state identification card and remain silent. Giving a false name or documents may create a reason to arrest you.

If You Are Stopped in A Car

  • Quickly stop the car in a well-lit place safe from traffic and turn off the car. On request, provide your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance.
  • Do not get out of your car unless police ask.  By law, you must get out of the car if the police ask you to exit the vehicle[SE2] .
  • If police ask to search your car, say “I do not consent to searches.” Police may have or find a reason to search your car anyway. Still, say you do not consent out loud. Remember: giving consent may affect you later in court.
  • Both drivers and passengers always have the right to remain silent. If you are a passenger, you can ask if you are free to leave and calmly go if police say “yes.”
  • If you are given a ticket, sign it if police instruct. Signing a ticket does not admit guilt, and you can contest the ticket in court later.
  • Your body and car cannot be searched solely because police allegedly smell marijuana. However, the unauthorized sale of marijuana and substance impaired driving are still criminal offenses. If you are suspected of driving impaired by any substance and refuse to take a blood, urine, or breath test, your driver’s license may be suspended, and your refusal can be used against you in court.

If the Police Come to Your Home or Business

  • If the police come to your home or business, you do not have to let them in unless they have a warrant. Say “I can’t let you in without a warrant.” If you want to speak with them, but do not consent to a home search, step outside, and shut the door. If the police say they have a warrant, ask them to first slip the warrant under the door or hold it up to the window so you can confirm the address. A search warrant allows police to enter the address listed, but officers can only search the areas and for the items listed. You always have the right to remain silent.
  • Understand: Police may enter without a warrant or without showing you the warrant in some uncommon special circumstances.

If You Are Arrested

  • Resisting arrest may result in the police harming you, even if the arrest is unfair. Say “I don’t want to talk to you without a lawyer” and avoid explaining further.
  • If you can’t pay for a lawyer, you have the right to a free one. Don’t say anything, sign anything, or make any decisions without a lawyer.
  • You have the right to make a local phone call. The police cannot listen to your call if you are speaking to a lawyer.

If You Feel your Rights Have Been Violated

  • Remember: Police usually respond badly to challenges on the street. Physically resisting officers may result in them harming you or additional charges against you.
  • Write down everything you remember when you can, including officers’ badge and car numbers, the police department, and any other details. Try to remember whether there were cameras nearby. Get treatment for and photograph your injuries.
  • You may consider filing a complaint with the Police Accountability Board where your incident happened, though be aware that the complaint will be shared with police. If you have a criminal charge from the incident, speak to your defense lawyer before filing any complaint.
  • To ask us for legal help, contact the ACLU Legal Advocacy Team by phone (443) 524-2558, or online.
  • Request an in-person training about police interactions and your rights here.

Your Right to Take Video and Photographs of the Police

  • When in outdoor public spaces where you are legally present, you have the right to capture any image that is in plain view. That includes pictures and videos of federal buildings, transportation facilities (including airports), and police officers.
  • When you are on private property, the property owner sets the rules about the taking of photographs or videos. If you disobey property owners' rules, they can order you off their property (and have you arrested for trespassing if you do not comply).
  • Police should not order you to stop taking pictures or video. Under no circumstances should they demand that you delete your photographs or video.
  • Police officers may order residents to cease activities that are truly interfering with legitimate law enforcement operations. In general, a court will trust an officer's judgment about what is "interfering" more than yours. So, if an officer orders you to stand back, do so.
  • If the officer says they will arrest you if you continue to use your camera, in most circumstances it is better to put the camera away and call the ACLU for help, rather than risking arrest.
  • Police officers may not generally confiscate or demand to view your photographs or video without a warrant. If you are arrested, the contents of your phone may be scrutinized by the police, although their constitutional power to do so remains unsettled. In addition, it is possible that courts may approve the seizure of a camera in some circumstances if police have a reasonable, good-faith belief that it contains evidence of a crime by someone other than the police themselves.

Using a Video Recorder (Including Cell Phones) With Audio Capacity

  • You have a right to capture images in public places, but you don't always have a right to record what people say.
  • You have the right to videotape and audiotape police officers performing official duties in public. That means you can record an officer during a traffic stop, during an interrogation, or while they are making an arrest.
  • You can record people protesting or giving speeches in public.

If You Are Stopped or Detained for Taking Photographs or Videos

  • Always remain polite and never physically resist a police officer.
  • If stopped for photography, ask if you are free to go. If the officer says no, then you are being detained, something an officer cannot do without reasonable suspicion that you have or are about to commit a crime or are in the process of doing so. Until you ask to leave, you being stopped is considered voluntary under the law and is legal.
  • If you are detained, politely state that you believe you have the right to take pictures or video and that you do not consent to the officer looking through or deleting anything on your camera. But if the officer reaches for your camera or phone, do not resist. Simply repeat that you do not consent to any search or seizure. You don't want to invite a charge for "resisting arrest."