A police officer shows up at your door and asks to talk to you. An officer pulls you over on the way home from work and walks up to the window. An officer gets your attention on the street and asks if they can talk to you for a second.

These are just a few examples of potential encounters with the police. You may feel nervous and not know what you’re supposed to do, especially if this has never happened before. To help you, here are six important things to remember:

  1. You don’t have to talk. You do always have a right to remain silent.
  2. What you say matters. It can all come back to haunt you in court if you get arrested. Choose your words carefully.
  3. In most cases, police cannot search you or your home without a warrant. There are rare exceptions, such as if they think a crime is actively in process, but they generally need a warrant first.
  4. You can ask to see this warrant. Do not just take their word for it if they claim that they have one.
  5. They must tell you if you’re free to go. This is especially important on the street. You can always ask if you’re being arrested or not.
  6. You should never obstruct what the police are doing or try to interfere with the process. That alone can be a criminal offense. Even if they didn’t have a reason to arrest you before that, you could accidentally give them one.

If you do end up getting arrested, you absolutely need to start looking into all of your criminal defense options.