As a criminal defense attorney, I have represented countless people charged with crimes ranging from very minor offenses to violent felonies. In almost all cases, I will have to answer questions put to me by my clients about the way they were treated by the police. More often than not, my answers surprise my clients who typically have some serious misconceptions about what the police are and are not allowed to do. Not only have I devoted my professional career to understanding the permissible contours of a police-citizen encounter, I also had the privilege of teaching a class on this material at Tufts University , a prestigious school outside of Boston, Massachusetts. This article is the first in a series of articles discussing what police are and are not allowed to do.
Do I have to stop and talk to police when they ask me to?
Yes and no (but often the answer is no)
To answer this question, one must be familiar with some basic legal concepts related to the law of "seizure," a concept derived directly from the text of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution which reads, in pertinent part: