Experienced. Dedicated. Trusted.

Does a Person Have a Right to Walk Away From a Police Officer?

Unless you are under arrest or being detained, you have the right to walk away from a police officer; to be on the safe side, you should ask if you are free to go before you start walking away.

Police officers do not have the right to interfere with you, except when they do. A lot of people’s ideas about what you can and cannot do during interactions with police are specific to traffic stops. For example, if a police officer pulls you over for a traffic stop, you must show your driver’s license and vehicle registration, thereby informing the officer of your name and address. Likewise, police need a warrant to search your property, but at a traffic stop, they can search your car as long as there is probable cause, which is a subjective measure. There is a difference between traffic stops and just minding your business, however. When you drive a car, you are implicitly agreeing to follow traffic laws, including carrying your driver’s license with you, registering your vehicle, and showing your license and registration to law enforcement upon request. The Atlanta criminal defense lawyers at Ghanayem & Rayasam can help you if you got arrested after a police officer stopped you and started asking you questions.

Arrested, Detained, or Free to Go?

If a police officer stops you while you are walking, standing, or sitting in a public place, several scenarios could be in play, and your rights are slightly different in the various scenarios. If a police officer asks you your name, whether you can refuse to answer depends on the context. If the officer is accusing you of loitering or prowling (both of which mean being someplace where you apparently do not belong), you must identify yourself upon request. Otherwise, you may remain silent. If you choose to do this, you should say, “I wish to remain silent.”

If you walk away or run away from a police officer who is engaging with you verbally, you could be charged with resisting an officer or a similar offense. In many cases, though, you have the right to walk away. You are only obligated to stay if you are under arrest or being detained. This does not mean that police are always forthcoming about why they are talking to you or that they always clearly inform people of their rights. Pursuant to Miranda v. Arizona, police must inform defendants of their right to remain silent while under arrest, but they also have plenty of other rights. To make sure that you are not breaking the law, ask the officer whether you are free to go.

Atlanta Criminal Defense Lawyer

A criminal defense lawyer can help you if you are facing criminal charges after law enforcement arrested you because you walked away from a conversation with a police officer. Contact the defense lawyers at Ghanayem & Rayasam in Atlanta, Georgia, about criminal defense cases.