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When the status of your status puts you at risk in a police stop

Even if you've been living and working in Texas for decades without appropriate immigrant documentation, you probably never get entirely used to living as a non-immigrant in the United States. You go to work. You pay your taxes. You do your best to raise your children to respect the laws of this nation and to be proud of their heritage and the contributions they can make in their Texas community. You probably have many neighbors who relate to your situation.

Like you, they might worry from time to time about incidents that could lead to deportation. For instance, if an officer pulls you (or them) over in a traffic stop or approaches you on foot to question you.

Your rights are the same in a traffic or terry stop

You might not think about a police officer stopping you while you're on foot, but it can happen. Let's say you are standing on a street corner socializing with some of your neighbors and a fight breaks out nearby to which you become a witness. At some point during the altercation, someone's car windows are smashed. Soon, you hear the sirens and see the flashing red and blue lights coming toward you. The next thing you know, police are coming up to you, asking questions. Some things that may be helpful to remember are listed below:

  • You can refuse to speak beyond any questions pertaining to personal identification.
  • If police ask you to hold out your arms so they can search your person, you can clearly state that you do not consent to the search.
  • You may also inquire whether you the officer suspects you of a crime or intends to arrest you.
  • At any time, you may ask for legal assistance.

Things you don't want to do when police stop you

As an undocumented immigrant, one of your first inclinations during a police stop may be to run fast and far away. That's typically a very bad idea, however. The following list may serve as a reminder for things you shouldn't do if police pull you over in a vehicle or stop you on foot:

  • You should not flee the scene.
  • You should not shout at or act in an aggressive manner to police.
  • You should not resist an officer who is trying to arrest you.
  • You should not say anything that could potentially incriminate you.

Talking to a police under stressful circumstances can make anyone nervous, even legal citizens or immigrants with proper documentation. It would be understandable for you to feel worried or afraid if uniformed law enforcement officers start searching your car or inquiring about who you know, what you saw or where you live, work, etc.

One of the benefits of asking for legal assistance right away is that you can ask a defense attorney to speak and act on your behalf both during the arrest process and in any court proceedings that may follow a particular incident.

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