Justice Matters. It's Your Right.

Protect Yourself / Know Your Rights

The United States Constitution’s 4th, 5th, and 6th Amendments are designed to ensure that people are treated fairly if they are suspected or arrested for committing a crime. These constitutional rights are not always respected and acknowledged by law enforcement authorities. Protect yourself. Know your rights. Know the 4th, 5th, and 6th Amendments if you are ever questioned by police or arrested.

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call 1-844-QUEENSD

To protect yourself you need to know what these amendments are and what you should do to when confronted with police interactions.

4th Amendment

Right to Be Free from Unreasonable Search and Seizure
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized

What you say:
"I will not consent to a search today."

5th Amendment

Right to Remain Silent, Due Process of Law

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

What you say:
"I have nothing to say."

6th Amendment

Right to Speedy Trial by Jury, Witnesses, Counsel

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

What you say:
"My lawyer is on the way."

Oral "Nick" Hillary

Education Specialist
Queens Defenders

Mani Tafari

Criminal Attorney
Queens Defenders

Understanding the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendment rights is critical for black and brown people, especially adolescents and young adults. Queens Defenders is launching Justice 456, an educational tour of schools, community centers, churches, and other community venues. We want to teach those most at risk of a wrongful conviction how to protect themselves.

The Fourth Amendment guarantees you the right to be protected from unlawful searches and seizures. Police cannot search you or your house without a search warrant or “probable cause” to think you have committed a crime.

The Fifth Amendment allows you to refuse to answer questions from the police or prosecutor in order to avoid making incriminating statements against yourself. Understanding that you do not have to “explain yourself to a police officer” can save you years and perhaps decades in jail.

The Sixth Amendment provides the right to be represented by a lawyer who can explain your rights and the charges against you. Do not speak to a police officer — who is supported by the District Attorney, the police department, criminal justice agencies – without a lawyer.

A person’s words can be twisted and used against them in a court of law regardless of whether they’re innocent. In fact, criminal defense attorneys spend a large portion of their time attempting to get statements made by defendants without a lawyer present thrown out of court. By remaining silent, you are much more likely to have a successful outcome to your case.

The bottom line: always be respectful and polite to police officers and never lie to them, but, more importantly, never say anything to them other than requesting the presence of a lawyer.

Knowledge is power.

Understanding your rights and using them respectfully will benefit you in both the short and the long term.