What Are Your Rights During a Police Encounter in Texas?
By Sholdon Daniels
As a criminal defense attorney in Texas, I often receive questions from clients regarding their rights during police encounters. While the specific circumstances of each situation can impact your legal rights, there are some general principles that apply to most encounters with law enforcement in Texas. Here's what you need to know:
You have the right to remain silent
One of the most important rights you have during a police encounter in Texas is the right to remain silent. You do not have to answer any questions that could incriminate you or provide evidence against you. It's important to remember that anything you say to the police can be used against you in court, so it's usually best to stay quiet and speak to an attorney before saying anything.
You have the right to refuse searches
In most cases, police officers cannot search you, your car, or your property without your consent or a valid search warrant. If the police ask to search your property, you have the right to refuse. However, if the police have a warrant, they can legally search your property without your consent. Also, if you are being or have been lawfully arrested, the police may be allowed to conduct a search of your person and take an "inventory" of your vehicle under what is referred to as a "search incident to a lawful arrest." So keep this in mind before you go refusing a search.
You have the right to an attorney
If you are arrested or detained by law enforcement, you have the right to an attorney. This means that you can ask to speak to an attorney before answering ANY questions or providing ANY information to the police. If you are arrested and cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you by the court. Not all court-appointed lawyers are the greatest, but many are amazing lawyers that take appointments for a wide range of altruistic reasons. Don't automatically assume that your lawyer is not good simply because they were appointed to represent you.
You have the right to be treated fairly
During a police encounter, you have the right to be treated fairly and without discrimination. Police officers cannot use excessive force or violate your civil rights, and they must follow proper procedures when making an arrest or conducting an investigation. I know that this is hardly ever the case in reality, as cops are known for being bullies and abusive with their power. However, your right to fair treatment still exists regardless of what kind of officers you're dealing with on any given occasion.
You have the right to record the police
In Texas, you have the right to record police officers in public spaces, as long as you do not interfere with their work. However, it's important to remember that recording police officers could lead to confrontations, so it's usually best to stay calm and respectful. Police officers have been known to deploy shady tactics whereby they play copyrighted music very loudly while they're being recorded so that the resulting footage becomes subject to "takedown notices" on major media platforms due to copyright violations. This is a cowardly and unethical practice, but what more can you expect from American law enforcement officials?
As a Texas criminal defense attorney, I believe that it's important for people to understand their legal rights during a police encounter in Texas. The principles of remaining silent, refusing searches, having access to an attorney, being treated fairly, and being allowed to record the police are all designed to protect your rights and ensure that you receive a fair legal process. If you find yourself in a police encounter or are facing criminal charges, don't hesitate to contact my office. I'm here to help you understand your legal options and build a strong defense.
You can reach me at 1-844-SHOLDON, and follow me on Twitter at @SholdonDaniels for more legal updates and information.