Know your rights – Maryland law


The safest course of action is to obey the officer’s directives. Not every order by a police officer is lawful, and police may not lawfully arrest you in Maryland for failing to obey an order unless the order is lawful, and aimed at averting some imminent illegal conduct. It is difficult to know at the scene whether the order is proper, and failing to obey may result in an arrest, even though the arrest may not be proper. You have the right to photograph and record police officers performing their job in public. Police may not order you to delete photographs or recordings on your camera or cell phone. Police may order you to stand a sufficient distance away so that you are not interfering with their activities.


Remember: Police misconduct cannot be challenged on the street. Don’t physically resist officers, complain on the scene, or threaten to file a complaint

Write down everything you remember, including officers’ badge and patrol car numbers, which agency the officers were from, and any other details. Get contact information for witnesses. If you are injured, take photographs of your injuries (but seek medical attention first).

File a written complaint with the agency’s internal affairs division or civilian complaint board. In most cases, you can file a complaint anonymously if you wish, though doing so may make it difficult or impossible to conduct a thorough investigation. If you have been charged with a crime in connection with the incident about which you are complaining, speak to your lawyer in your criminal case before filing a complaint. If you intend to file a civil suit against the police relating to the incident, you may wish to consult with the lawyer who will handle that case before filing a complaint.


You have the right to remain silent. If you wish to exercise that right, say so out loud

You have the right to refuse to consent to a search of yourself, your car or your home, with certain exceptions.

Regardless of your immigration or citizenship status, you have constitutional rights.

If you are not under arrest, you have the right to calmly leave.

You have a right to an attorney if you are arrested. Ask for one immediately.

You have the right to record police actions as long as you don’t interfere with their activities and are not breaking any other law.



Stay calm. Don’t run. Don’t argue, resist or obstruct the police, even if you are innocent or police are violating your rights. Keep your hands where police can see them

Ask if you are free to leave. If the officer says yes and you wish to leave, calmly and silently walk away. If you are under arrest, you have a right to know why.

You have the right to remain silent and cannot be punished for refusing to answer questions (but refusing to answer questions may make the police suspicious about you). If you wish to remain silent, tell the officer out loud. In Maryland, you are not legally required to give your name if asked to identify yourself (although some states do require this.)

You do not have to consent to a search of yourself or your belongings, but police may “pat down” your clothing or accessible container (like a purse or backpack) if they suspect a weapon. You should not physically resist, but you have the right to refuse consent for any further search (including a request that you empty your pockets or purse). If you do consent, it can affect you later in court. Police can look inside your pockets, your purse, or other container only if their “pat down” provides evidence of a weapon or a crime, if a “pat down” would not be sufficient to establish whether you have a weapon (such as a container with hard sides), or if they have probable cause to believe they will find evidence of a crime.

You do not have to carry ID with you, or show it to an officer on demand, but inability (or unwillingness) to produce an ID when an officer intends to charge you with a crime will mean that the officer must make an arrest, and cannot simply give you a citation.


Stop the car in a safe place as quickly as possible. Turn off the car, turn on the internal light, open the window part way and place your hands on the wheel.

Upon request, show police your driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance.

If an officer asks to look inside your car, you can refuse to consent to the search. But if police believe your car contains evidence of a crime, your car can be searched without your consent.

Both drivers and passengers have the right to remain silent. If you are a passenger, you can ask if you are free to leave. If the officer says yes, sit silently or calmly leave. Even if the officer says no, you have the right to remain silent.

If you are given a ticket, you should sign it if directed to do so by a police officer. Signing a ticket is not an admission of guilt, and you can contest the ticket in court later.

If you are suspected of drunk or impaired driving and refuse to take a blood, urine, or breath test, your driver’s license may be suspended.


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