Law enforcement officers in Florida must treat everyone fairly, regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin or religion. This page gives information in case you have contact with the police, immigration agents, or the FBI, and helps you understand your rights. The following information is for educational purposes only, and is not intended as, nor is a substitute for, legal advice.
Listen and watch our bilingual (English-Spanish) "Immigrant's Have Rights, Too" webinar above, which provides a comprehensive overview of immigrant's rights.
- You have the right to remain silent. You do not have to answer questions about where you were born, whether you’re a U.S. citizen, or how you entered the country. (Separate rules apply at international borders and airports.)
- You are only expected to identify yourself to Florida law enforcement officers (police officers and Sheriff’s deputies, not immigration or FBI agents) when you are stopped on suspicion of a crime or a traffic violation. If you don’t have identification documents, you may choose to remain silent.
- You have zero obligation to provide your name or “show your papers” to an ICE officer for any reason.
- If you choose to volunteer information about your legal immigration status (i.e. “I am a permanent resident” or “I am here on a temporary visa,”), you have the option to only do so when you are carrying your papers and ready to show them.
- Keep calm.
- Do not interfere with the police or obstruct them.
- Do not tell lies or give false documents.
- Prepare yourself and your family in case you are arrested.
- Remember the details of the incident.
- Prepare a written complaint or call your local ACLU if you think your rights have been violated.
- If you’re over 18, you’re not a U.S. citizen, and you have valid immigration documents, you must carry them with you at all times. If you don’t have valid immigration papers, you may choose to remain silent.
IF YOU ARE STOPPED AND QUESTIONED
Keep calm. Do not run. Do not argue, resist or obstruct the officer, even if you are innocent and the police are violating your rights. Always keep your hands where the officer can see them.
Ask if you are free to leave. If the officer says yes, move calmly and quietly. If you are arrested, you have the right to know why.
You have the right to remain silent and cannot be punished for refusing to answer questions. If you want to remain silent, tell the officer out loud. But note that you are expected to identify yourself to Florida law enforcement officers when you are stopped on suspicion of a crime or a traffic violation.
You are not required to give permission to have your person or belongings searched. Officers can search your person if they suspect you have a weapon. You must not resist physically, but you have the right to refuse a search. If you consent, this can harm you later in court.
IF YOU’RE STOPPED IN YOUR VEHICLE
Stop the vehicle in a safe place as soon as possible. Turn off the car, turn on the interior light, open the window a little and place your hands on the steering wheel. If you are requested, show the police your driver's license, registration and proof of insurance. If you are not in possession of the required documents, you may choose to remain silent.
If an officer asks to search the inside of your car, you can deny this request. However, if the officer believes that your car contains evidence of a crime, they can conduct a search without your permission.
Both the driver and passenger(s) 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, remain seated in silence or leave calmly. Even if the officer says no, you have the right to remain silent.
IF THE POLICE OR IMMIGRATION AGENTS ARRIVE AT YOUR HOME
If officers arrive at your house, you do not have to let them in unless they have certain types of court orders.
Ask the officer to pass the court order under the door or hold it at the door window for you to review. A search warrant allows law enforcement officers to enter the address indicated in the order, but officers can only search the area for the items that are mentioned in the order. An arrest warrant allows officers to enter the house of the person indicated in the order, if they believe the person is inside. Deportation / removal orders and "ICE warrants" do not allow immigration agents to enter your home without your permission.
Even if the agents or officers have a court order, you have the right to remain silent. If you choose to speak with them, leave and close the door.
IF YOU ARE ARRESTED
Do not resist arrest, even if you think it is an unfair arrest.
Say you want to remain silent and ask for a lawyer immediately. Do not give any explanation or pretext. If you cannot pay for a lawyer, and you have been arrested on suspicion of a crime, one will be provided for you. If you have been arrested for immigration / deportation proceedings, a lawyer will not be provided, but you have the right to hire a lawyer; ask for a list of pro bono legal services providers. Do not say anything, sign anything or make any decision without a lawyer.
You have the right to make one local call. Law enforcement officers may not listen to your conversation if you request to call a lawyer, unless you consent; if you are being held for immigration / deportation proceedings, ask explicitly for a phone that is not monitored.
Prepare yourself and your family in case you are arrested. Memorize the phone numbers of your family and your lawyer. Make emergency plans if you have children or need to take a medication.
Special considerations for people who are not citizens:
- Ask your lawyer about the impact on your immigration status, if you receive a criminal conviction or are considering pleading guilty to the charges.
- Do not talk about your immigration status with anyone except your lawyer.