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Getting pulled over as an immigrant

by | Jun 1, 2022 | Immigration

Regardless of your immigration status, being pulled over by law enforcement is scary. But, please remember that you have constitutionally guaranteed rights.

Reduce the risk of escalation

For most Berkeley, California, law enforcement stops, your immigration status will not even be questioned. However, there are some general rules you should follow to ensure the situation is not escalated. First, breathe and do your best to stay calm. Do not argue with the officer, resist an arrest, follow orders (even if you believe they are unlawful), do not obstruct the officer and do not run. Keep your hands visible, and do not lie or provide a fake ID. If you end up in handcuffs, comply and ask for a lawyer.

Silence is golden

While you must identify yourself, and provide your identification, registration and insurance information, you can largely remain silent. You do not have to engage with the law enforcement officer nor discuss your immigration status, and you can refuse to consent to any search of your person or vehicle (do not resist if they proceed to do so anyway). Remember, anything you say can be used against you immediately and at any later court hearing, and your goal is to survive this interaction.

Immigration papers

For non-citizens, if you are pulled over by an immigration agent, then you will likely be questioned about your status. If they ask you for your immigration papers, you must provide them, but do not provide fake immigration papers. If you do not have them, though, you can simply state that you do not have your immigration papers. They will likely try to use this as an excuse to search you or your vehicle, but not having your immigration papers is not probable cause. As such, you can say no, and they do not have the right to search your vehicle, belongs or you without probable cause or your consent. If they violate your rights, try to document it, but do not resist.

You have the right to counsel

You have a constitutional right to counsel if you are being arrested. If you are uncomfortable remaining silent, then simply ask for an attorney. It is okay to ask to consult with an attorney before answering any of their questions.

Border crossings

When entering or leaving the United States, bring your immigration papers, and consult with your Berkeley, California, immigration attorney prior to doing so. Especially during these precarious times, you may not be able to return if you leave. And, keep your attorney’s contact information on your person in case you are denied reentry or exit.