If you feel you are stopped or arrested and think you’ve done nothing wrong or that the police officer is treating you unfairly, you may feel a wide range of emotions, including anger and frustration. On top of this, confusion or lack of understanding of your constitutional rights can cause you to make poor decisions.

A criminal defense attorney understands your dilemma and wants you to know that if you let your emotions guide your actions or words before, during, or after an arrest, you can make your situation much worse. You are well-advised to know what you should or shouldn’t do when interacting with law enforcement officers so that you don’t make mistakes that could cost you your freedom.

No matter how you feel when you encounter the police, you need to keep your head on straight. When a police officer asks questions or initiates a search or arrest, you would do well to avoid making these four common errors: 

1. Don’t fight back: Police overreach and misconduct are commonplace. While the majority of law enforcement officers do their jobs honorably and properly, some engage in abuses. If these are aimed at you, don’t fight back, no matter how outrageous or wrongful their conduct may be. It will not make things any better for you in the long run. There will be a time to fight back and seek justice in legal proceedings.

2. Don’t try to talk your way out of the charges

You have the right to remain silent and are well-advised to take advantage of it. Indeed, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You may desperately want to explain to the officer why you did nothing wrong, but the more you say, the more opportunity you have to say something that will harm your defense. You will have a chance to tell your side of the story, just not then. You would do well to not speak to the police about what happened until you’ve consulted with a criminal defense attorney.

3. Don’t agree to a search of your vehicle

A police officer may ask if he or she can search your car upon pulling you over. They must ask permission, as they can only search your vehicle under limited circumstances. If law enforcement conducts an improper search, any evidence they discover will likely be prohibited from use in court. But if you give them the go-ahead, anything the police find in your car can be used to convict you. Don’t give consent to a search. Stand your constitutional ground and politely and respectfully refuse a search.

4. Hire an experienced criminal defense attorney

When hefty fines and the loss of your freedom are at stake, you will not want to be without qualified legal representation. A criminal courtroom is not the place to try your hand at being your own lawyer. You do not know the complicated rules that govern criminal cases. However, the prosecution does, and will use that knowledge and authority to convict you. Don’t take chances with your future. Speak with a criminal defense attorney to increase your chances of a favorable outcome so you can move forward with your life.