This is an informational resource only and is not legal advice. You should contact an attorney if you have been arrested or believe that your rights have been violated.

TIPS ON INTERACTING WITH LAW ENFORCEMENT

  • Think carefully about your words, movement, body language, and emotions.
  • Don’t get into an argument with the police.
  • Remember, anything you say or do can be used against you.
  • Keep your hands where the police can see them.
  • Don’t run. Don’t touch any police officer.
  • Don’t resist even if you believe you are innocent.
  • Don’t complain on the scene or tell the police they're wrong or that you are going to file a complaint.
  • Do not make any statements or confessions even if the police say it will help you avoid arrest, prosecution, or having something on your record.
  • If you are arrested, immediately ask for a lawyer.
  • Do not make a deal until you speak with a lawyer.
  • Remember officers’ badge and patrol car numbers.
  • Write down everything you remember ASAP.
  • Try to find witnesses, and record their names and phone numbers.
  • If you are injured, take photographs of the injuries as soon as possible, but make sure you seek medical attention first.
  • If you feel your rights are violated, do not argue with the officers. Instead, file a complaint

IF YOU ARE STOPPED BY THE POLICE

  • What you say to the police is always important. What you say can be used against you, and it can give the police an excuse to arrest you, especially if you bad-mouth an officer.
  • Do not interfere with or obstruct the police - you can be arrested for it.
  • Politely ask if you are under arrest. If you are, you have the right to know why.
  • The police can legally ask for your name if you have been properly detained, and you can be arrested for refusing to give it. If you reasonably fear your name is incriminating, you can claim the right to remain silent, which may be a defense if you are arrested anyway.
  • You have a legal right to refuse to provide information other than your name or answer questions if you are detained or arrested.
  • Police may “pat down” your clothes if they suspect a concealed weapon.
  • You do not have to consent to any further search of yourself or your belongings. If you DO consent to a search, it can affect your rights later in court. If the police say they have a search warrant, ASK TO SEE IT.
  • If the police proceed to search, do not physically resist, but make it clear that you do not consent to any further search. 
  • Don’t fight with or bad-mouth a police officer or run away, even if you believe what is happening is illegal and unreasonable. That could lead to your arrest or negative reactions from law enforcement.

YOUR RIGHTS TO ENGAGE IN LIFE-SUSTAINING ACTIVITIES

  • If you are unable to obtain a bed in a shelter, you cannot be legally arrested or ticketed just for conducting life-sustaining activities.
  • Examples of life-sustaining activities are: sleeping on sidewalks/public places or urinating in public places where you have tried but you cannot obtain access to any alternatives.
  • If the police find you engaging in life-sustaining activities that would otherwise be illegal, under the law they must first offer you shelter.
  • If shelter is not available, then the police cannot arrest or ticket you for your activities.
  • If shelter is available and you refuse it, then the police have discretion to arrest or ticket you.

YOUR PROPERTY RIGHTS

  • If you are unable to obtain a bed in a shelter, you cannot be legally arrested or ticketed just for conducting life-sustaining activities.
  • Examples of life-sustaining activities are: sleeping on sidewalks/public places or urinating in public places where you have tried but you cannot obtain access to any alternatives.
  • If the police find you engaging in life-sustaining activities that would otherwise be illegal, under the law they must first offer you shelter.
  • If shelter is not available, then the police cannot arrest or ticket you for your activities.
  • If shelter is available and you refuse it, then the police have discretion to arrest or ticket you.

YOUR FREEDOM TO TRAVEL

  • You have the right to travel without harassment.
  • The police cannot legally tell you that you must stay in one specific area.

HOW TO PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS

  • We all recognize the need for effective law enforcement, but we should also understand our own rights and responsibilities - especially in our interactions with the police. Everyone has the right to courteous and respectful police treatment, including individuals who are homeless.
  • If you feel that you have been harassed by the police for carrying out life-sustaining activities and/or the police take your property and do not tell you how to get it back, make notes right away with dates and complete descriptions of all incidents.
  • If you feel your rights are violated, file a written complaint with:

The ACLU of Nevada does not have the resources to do any in-person or over-the-phone intake or consultations whatsoever. You may file a complaint with our office, but we cannot guarantee that we will be able to provide you with assistance. If you have been arrested or believe that your rights have been violated, you should contact an attorney.

Additional Resources

- Tips on Interacting With Law Enforcement for Homeless Individuals (PDF)

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