Police Encounters-Part I: Field InquiryMost people don’t know what their rights are in certain situations when confronted with questions from the police.  There have been many cases where this has been an issue and it’s time to set the record straight.  To clear up some of this confusion, I will be hosting a three-part blog series based on the types of rendezvous you might have with an officer.

Typically there are three types of police encounters, the first of which is called field inquiry and it is the least intrusive form of the police encounters.

A field inquiry is when an officer comes up to you and starts questioning you.  The police do not have to give a reason for conducting a field inquiry because they have the right to go up to anyone they want and start talking to them.  This could happen for any number of reasons.  They may simply want to find out why you are in a certain area at that specific time.

However, you are well within your rights to walk away and not say anything because the police aren’t detaining you.  Most field inquiries are approved by the courts, unless they’re based on race.  The police cannot walk up to an individual simply because they are black, for example.  Field inquiries based on a person’s race will not pass constitutional muster.

While most police training manuals state that officers should have a legitimate purpose for initiating a field inquiry, we all know that’s not always the case.  The important thing to remember in a situation like this is that this is what they consider to be a “consensual interaction”—meaning that you do not have to answer their questions or speak to them, but if you, you do so of your own freewill.  This type of encounter really only last long enough for them to ask basic questions about your identity, your residence, what business you have in the area, and a few other limited queries based on their suspicion of criminal activity.  They cannot compel you to answer any of their questions in this type of encounter.

In these situations, the police are prohibited from:

  • Issuing you an order to stop
  • Display their weapon
  • Use their lights and/or sirens
  • Employ a threatening or intimidating tone of voice
  • Requesting then retaining your driver’s license or other form of identification
  • Initiate any physical touching
  • Suggest by words or actions the intent to frisk

If you feel that your rights were violated in a situation you feel was intended as a field inquiry, call me, attorney Leon Matchin, immediately at (833) 732-7320 to discuss whether you have grounds to peruse legal action.

Stay tuned for next week’s blog for the following type of Police Encounter, known in my business as a Terry Stop!