soc NLG

There are six parts to this assignment after reading “Know Your Rights_NLG”. Part 1 to part 5 requires no more than 2 sentence response.  To be clear, parts 1 to part 5 should be completed in ten sentences or less.  Part 6 should be in 1-2 paragraphs. Furthermore, you must use the numerical template above to answer. 

1) Please identify one active community organization’s civic engagement in terms of assisting individuals with accessing their rights under the Constitution.  The organization may provide service to individuals whether they are citizens or not; 

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2) Clearly identify the law enforcement encounter that would require an individual to seek access to their rights through the organization you identify; 

3) Identify the specific right(s) the individual needs to access and apply to their given situation; 

4) You must use at least one quote from the National Lawyer’s Guild reading assigned and cite the page number; 

5) State what motivated your decisions for completing this assignment other than personal reasons including the fact that the assignment is required. Please include motivation that is inspired by your specific interest in a law enforcement encounter and/or knowledge of rights that are of interest to you.  Please note: The motivation must be something other than personal reasons and the fact that the assignment is required.  In other words, please include motivation that is inspired by your specific interest in a law enforcement encounter and/or knowledge of rights that are of interest to you.  

6) Discussion Board:  Engagement in the Discussion Board does not mean over relying on quotes from the National Lawyer’s Guild to support claims or name dropping without clarifying the main points or claims.  Please engage the National Lawyer’s Guild civic learning assignment and share your response to the assignment with the class.  Your discussion with the class must include something other than or more than personal reasons and the fact that the contribution to the Discussion Board is required.  In other words, please include motivation that is inspired by your specific interest in a law enforcement encounter and/or knowledge of rights that are of interest to you.

national lawyers guild

A Know Your Rights Guide for
Law Enforcement Encounters





Whether or not you’re a citizen, you have rights under
the United States Constitution. The Fifth Amendment

gives every person the right to remain silent: not to answer
questions asked by a police officer or government agent.
The Fourth Amendment restricts the government’s power to
enter and search your home or workplace, although there are
many exceptions and new laws have expanded the govern-
ment’s power to conduct surveillance. The First Amendment
protects your right to speak freely and to advocate for social
change. However, if you are a non-citizen, the Department
of Homeland Security may target you based on your political

What Rights Do I Have?


The government’s crusade against politically-active indi-
viduals is intended to disrupt and suppress the exercise

of time-honored free speech activities, such as boycotts, pro-
tests, grassroots organizing and solidarity work. Remember
that you have the right to stand up to the intimidation tactics
of FBI agents and other law enforcement officials who, with
political motives, are targeting organizing and free speech
activities. Informed resistance to these tactics and steadfast
defense of your and others’ rights can bring positive results.
Each person who takes a courageous stand makes future
resistance to government oppression easier for all.
The National Lawyers Guild has a long tradition of stand-
ing up to government repression. The FBI labeled the Guild as
“subversive” during the McCarthy Era and was subject to FBI
surveillance and infiltration for many years. Guild attorneys
have defended FBI-targeted members of the Black Panther
Party, the American Indian Movement, and the Puerto Rican
independence movement. The NLG exposed FBI surveillance,
infiltration and disruption tactics that were detailed during the
1975-76 COINTELPRO hearings. In 1989 the NLG pre-
vailed in a lawsuit on behalf of several activist organizations,
including the Guild, that forced the FBI to expose the extent
to which it had been spying on activist movements. Under the
settlement, the FBI turned over roughly 400,000 pages of its
files on the Guild, which are now available at the Tamiment
Library at New York University.

Standing Up For Free Speech


What if an agent or police officer comes to the door?
Do not invite the agents or police into your home. Do
not answer any questions. Tell the agent that you do not wish
to talk with him or her. You can state that your lawyer will
contact them on your behalf. You can do this by stepping
outside and pulling the door behind you so that the interior
of your home or office is not visible, getting their contact
information or business cards and then returning inside. They
should cease questioning after this. If the agent or officer
gives a reason for contacting you, take notes and give the
information to your attorney. Anything you say, no matter
how seemingly harmless or insignificant, may be used against
you or others in the future. Lying to or misleading a federal
agent is a crime. The more you speak, the more opportunity
for federal law enforcement to find something you said (even
if not intentionally) false and assert that you lied to a federal

Do I have to answer questions?
You have the constitutional right to remain silent. It is
not a crime to refuse to answer questions. You do not have
to talk to anyone, even if you have been arrested or are in
jail. You should affirmatively and unambiguously state that
you wish to remain silent and that you wish to consult an
attorney. Once you make the request to speak to a lawyer,

What If FBI Agents or Police
Contact Me?


do not say anything else. The Supreme Court recently ruled
that answering law enforcement questions may be taken as a
waiver of your right to remain silent, so it is important that you
assert your rights and maintain them. Only a judge can order
you to answer questions. There is one exception: some states
have “stop and identify” statutes which require you to provide
identity information or your name if you have been detained
on reasonable suspicion that you may have committed a crime.
A lawyer in your state can advise you of the status of these
requirements where you reside.

Do I have to give my name?
As above, in some states you can be detained or arrested
for merely refusing to give your name. And in any state, police
do not always follow the law, and refusing to give your name
may make them suspicious or more hostile and lead to your
arrest, even without just cause, so use your judgment. Giving
a false name could in some circumstances be a crime.

Do I need a lawyer?
You have the right to talk to a lawyer before you
decide whether to answer questions from law enforcement.
It is a good idea to talk to a lawyer if you are considering
answering any questions. You have the right to have a lawyer
present during any interview. The lawyer’s job is to protect
your rights. Once you tell the agent that you want to talk to
a lawyer, he or she should stop trying to question you and
should make any further contact through your lawyer. If you
do not have a lawyer, you can still tell the officer you want to
speak to one before answering questions. Remember to get
the name, agency and telephone number of any investigator


who visits you, and give that information to your lawyer. The
government does not have to provide you with a free lawyer
unless you are charged with a crime, but the NLG or another
organization may be able to help you find a lawyer for free or
at a reduced rate.

If I refuse to answer questions or say I want a lawyer, won’t
it seem like I have something to hide?
Anything you say to law enforcement can be used against
you and others. You can never tell how a seemingly harmless
bit of information might be used or manipulated to hurt
you or someone else. That is why the right not to talk is a
fundamental right under the Constitution. Keep in mind that
although law enforcement agents are allowed to lie to you,
lying to a government agent is a crime. Remaining silent is
not. The safest things to say are “I am going to remain silent,”
“I want to speak to my lawyer,” and “I do not consent to a
search.” It is a common practice for law enforcement agents
to try to get you to waive your rights by telling you that if
you have nothing to hide you would talk or that talking would
“just clear things up.” The fact is, if they are questioning you,
they are looking to incriminate you or someone you may
know, or they are engaged in political intelligence gathering.
You should feel comfortable standing firm in protection and
defense of your rights and refusing to answer questions.

Can agents search my home or office?
You do not have to let police or agents into your home or
office unless they have and produce a valid search warrant. A
search warrant is a written court order that allows the police
to conduct a specified search. Interfering with a warrantless


search probably will not stop it and you might get arrested.
But you should say “I do not consent to a search,” and call a
criminal defense lawyer or the NLG. You should be aware that
a roommate or guest can legally consent to a search of your
house if the police believe that person has the authority to give
consent, and your employer can consent to a search of your
workspace without your permission.

What if agents have a search warrant?
If you are present when agents come for the search, you
can ask to see the warrant. The warrant must specify in detail
the places to be searched and the people or things to be taken
away. Tell the agents you do not consent to the search so that
they cannot go beyond what the warrant authorizes. Ask if you
are allowed to watch the search; if you are allowed to, you
should. Take notes, including names, badge numbers, what
agency each officer is from, where they searched and what
they took. If others are present, have them act as witnesses
to watch carefully what is happening. If the agents ask you to
give them documents, your computer, or anything else, look
to see if the item is listed in the warrant. If it is not, do not
consent to them taking it without talking to a lawyer. You do
not have to answer questions. Talk to a lawyer first. (Note:
If agents present an arrest warrant, they may only perform
a cursory visual search of the premises to see if the person
named in the arrest warrant is present.)

Do I have to answer questions if I have been arrested?
No. If you are arrested, you do not have to answer any
questions. You should affirmatively and unambiguously state
that you wish to assert your right to remain silent. Ask for a


lawyer right away. Do not say anything else. Repeat to every
officer who tries to talk to or question you that you wish to
remain silent and that you wish to speak to a lawyer. You
should always talk to a lawyer before you decide to answer
any questions.

What if I speak to government agents anyway?
Even if you have already answered some questions, you
can refuse to answer other questions until you have a lawyer.
If you find yourself talking, stop. Assert that you wish to
remain silent and that you wish to speak to a lawyer.

What if the police stop me on the street?
Ask if you are free to go. If the answer is yes, consider just
walking away. If the police say you are not under arrest, but are
not free to go, then you are being detained. The police can pat
down the outside of your clothing if they have reason to suspect
you might be armed and dangerous. If they search any more
than this, say clearly, “I do not consent to a search.” They may
keep searching anyway. If this happens, do not resist because
you can be charged with assault or resisting arrest. You do not
have to answer any questions. You do not have to open bags or
any closed container. Tell the officers you do not consent to a
search of your bags or other property.

What if police or agents stop me in my car?
Keep your hands where the police can see them. If you
are driving a vehicle, you must show your license, registration
and, in some states, proof of insurance. You do not have to
consent to a search. But the police may have legal grounds to
search your car anyway. Clearly state that you do not consent.


Officers may separate passengers and drivers from each other
to question them, but no one has to answer any questions.

What if I am treated badly by the police or the FBI?
Write down the officer’s badge number, name or other
identifying information. You have a right to ask the officer for
this information. Try to find witnesses and their names and
phone numbers. If you are injured, seek medical attention and
take pictures of the injuries as soon as you can. Call a lawyer
as soon as possible.

What if the police or FBI threaten me with a grand jury
subpoena if I don’t answer their questions?
A grand jury subpoena is a written order for you to go
to court and testify about information you may have. It is
common for the FBI to threaten you with a subpoena to get you
to talk to them. If they are going to subpoena you, they will do
so anyway. You should not volunteer to speak just because you
are threatened with a subpoena. You should consult a lawyer.

What if I receive a grand jury subpoena?
Grand jury proceedings are not the same as testifying
at an open court trial. You are not allowed to have a lawyer
present (although one may wait in the hallway and you may
ask to consult with him or her after each question) and you
may be asked to answer questions about your activities and
associations. Because of the witness’s limited rights in this
situation, the government has frequently used grand jury
subpoenas to gather information about activists and political
organizations. It is common for the FBI to threaten activists
with a subpoena in order to elicit information about their


political views and activities and those of their associates.
There are legal grounds for stopping (“quashing”) subpoenas,
and receiving one does not necessarily mean that you are
suspected of a crime. If you do receive a subpoena, call the
NLG National Hotline at 888-NLG-ECOL (888-654-3265) or
call a criminal defense attorney immediately.
The government regularly uses grand jury subpoena
power to investigate and seek evidence related to politically-
active individuals and social movements. This practice is
aimed at prosecuting activists and, through intimidation and
disruption, discouraging continued activism.
Federal grand jury subpoenas are served in person.
If you receive one, it is critically important that you retain
the services of an attorney, preferably one who understands
your goals and, if applicable, understands the nature of your
political work and why it is being targeted and has experience
in dealing with these kinds of issues. Most lawyers are trained
to provide the best legal defense for their client, often at the
expense of others. Beware lawyers who summarily advise you
to cooperate with grand juries, testify against friends, or cut off
contact with your friends and political activists. Cooperation
usually leads to others being subpoenaed and investigated.
You also run the risk of being charged with perjury, a felony,
should you omit any pertinent information or should there
be inconsistencies in your testimony. Frequently prosecutors
will offer “use immunity,” meaning that the prosecutor is
prohibited from using your testimony or any leads from it
to bring charges against you. If a subsequent prosecution is
brought, the prosecutor bears the burden of proving that all
of its evidence was obtained independent of the immunized
testimony. You should be aware, however, that they will use


anything you say to manipulate associates into sharing more
information about you by suggesting that you have betrayed
If you appear before the grand jury you do not have the
same protections as in a trial. You have no Fifth Amendment
right to remain silent (if you invoke your right to remain silent
you may be held in contempt) and no Sixth Amendment right
to counsel, although you can consult with one outside of the
grand jury room.

Grand jury non-cooperation
If you receive a grand jury subpoena and elect to not
cooperate, you may be held in civil contempt. There is a
chance that you may be jailed or imprisoned for the length of
the grand jury in an effort to coerce you to cooperate. Regular
grand juries sit for a basic term of 18 months, which can be
extended up to a total of 24 months. It is lawful to hold you in
order to coerce your cooperation, but unlawful to hold you as a
means of punishment. In rare instances you may face criminal
contempt charges.


The Department of Homeland Security includes three agencies
that work on immigration enforcement and immigration
benefits: United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
(USCIS), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and
Customs and Border Patrol (CBP). All three bureaus will be
referred to as DHS for the purposes of this pamphlet.

■ Assert your rights. If you do not demand your rights or if you
sign papers waiving your rights, the Department of Homeland
Security (DHS) may deport you before you see a lawyer or
an immigration judge. Never sign anything without reading,
understanding and knowing the consequences of signing it.

■ Talk to a lawyer. If possible, carry with you the name and
telephone number of an immigration lawyer who will take
your calls. The immigration laws are hard to understand and
there have been many recent changes. DHS will not explain
your options to you. As soon as you encounter a DHS agent,
call your attorney. If you can’t do it right away, keep trying.
Always talk to an immigration lawyer before leaving the U.S.
Even some legal permanent residents can be barred from

Based on today’s laws, regulations and DHS guidelines, non-
citizens usually have the following rights, no matter what
their immigration status. This information may change, so it

What If I Am Not a Citizen
and the DHS Contacts Me?


is important to contact a lawyer. The following rights apply
to non-citizens who are inside the U.S. Non-citizens at the
border who are trying to enter the U.S. do not have all the
same rights.

Do I have the right to talk to a lawyer before answering any
DHS questions or signing any DHS papers?
Yes. You have the right to call a lawyer or your family
if you are detained, and you have the right to be visited by a
lawyer in detention. You have the right to have your attorney
with you at any hearing before an immigration judge. You
do not have the right to a government-appointed attorney
for immigration proceedings, but if you have been arrested,
immigration officials must show you a list of free or low cost
legal service providers.

Should I carry my green card or other immigration
documents with me?
Presenting false or expired papers to DHS may lead to
deportation or criminal prosecution. An unexpired green card,
unexpired I-94, Employment Authorization Card, Border
Crossing Card or other papers that prove you are in legal
status will satisfy this requirement. If you do not carry these
papers with you, you could be charged with a crime. Always
keep a copy of your immigration papers with a trusted family
member or friend who can fax them to you, if need be. Check
with your immigration lawyer about your specific case.

Am I required to talk to government officers about my
immigration history?
No. If you are undocumented, out of status, a legal


permanent resident (green card holder), or a citizen, you do
not have to answer any questions about your immigration
history. If you have a lawyer, you can tell the agent that the
lawyer will answer questions on your behalf.

If I am arrested for immigration violations, do I have the
right to a hearing before an immigration judge to defend
myself against deportation charges?
Yes. In most cases only an immigration judge can order
you deported. But if you waive your rights or take “voluntary
departure,” agreeing to leave the country, you could be
deported without a hearing. If you have criminal convictions,
were arrested near the border, came to the U.S. through the
visa waiver program or have been ordered deported in the
past, you could be deported without a hearing. Contact a
lawyer immediately to see if there is any relief for you.

Can I call my consulate if I am arrested?
Yes. Non-citizens arrested in the U.S. have the right to
call their consulate or to have the police tell the consulate of
your arrest. The police must let your consulate visit or speak
with you if consular officials decide to do so. Your consulate
might help you find a lawyer or offer other help. You also have
the right to refuse help from your consulate.

What happens if I give up my right to a hearing or leave the
U.S. before the hearing is over?

You could lose your eligibility for certain immigration
benefits, and you could be barred from returning to the U.S. for


a number of years. You should always talk to an immigration
lawyer before you decide to give up your right to a hearing.

What should I do if I want to contact DHS?
Always talk to a lawyer before contacting DHS, even on
the phone. Many DHS officers view “enforcement” as their
primary job and will not explain all of your options to you.

IMPORTANT NOTE: It is unlawful for law enforcement to
perform any stops, searches, detentions or removals based
solely on your race, national origin, religion, sex or ethnicity.

If I am entering the U.S. with valid travel papers can a U.S.
customs agent stop and search me?
Yes. Customs agents have the right to stop, detain and
search every person and item.

Can my bags or I be searched after going through metal
detectors with no problem or after security sees that my bags
do not contain a weapon?
Yes. Even if the initial screen of your bags reveals nothing
suspicious, the screeners have the authority to conduct a
further search of you or your bags.

What Are My Rights at


If I am on an airplane, can an airline employee interrogate
me or ask me to get off the plane?
The pilot of an airplane has the right to refuse to fly a
passenger if he or she believes the passenger is a threat to the
safety of the flight. The pilot’s decision must be reasonable
and based on observations of you, not stereotypes.

Do I have to answer questions?
No. Minors too have the right to remain silent. You cannot
be arrested for refusing to talk to the police, probation officers,
or school officials, except in some states you may have to give
your name if you have been detained.

What if I am detained?
If you are detained at a community detention facility or
juvenile hall, you normally must be released to a parent or
guardian. If charges are filed against you, in most states you
are entitled to counsel (just like an adult) at no cost.

Do I have the right to express political views at school?
Public school students generally have a First Amendment
right to politically organize at school by passing out leaflets,
holding meetings, etc., as long as those activities are not
disruptive and do not violate legitimate school rules. You may
not be singled out based on your politics, ethnicity or religion.

Can my backpack or locker be searched?

What If I Am Under 18?


School officials can search students’ backpacks and
lockers without a warrant if they reasonably suspect that you
are involved in criminal activity or carrying drugs or weapons.
Do not consent to the police or school officials searching your
property, but do not physically resist, or you may face criminal

Need help finding a lawyer? Visit:

National Lawyers Guild Referral Directory

National Police Accountability Project Referral Directory

This booklet is not a substitute for legal advice. You should
contact an attorney if you have been visited by the FBI or
other law enforcement officials. You should also alert your
relatives, friends, co-workers and others so that they will be
prepared if they are contacted as well.

Updated December 2014.


Find a Lawyer Online

National Police Accountability Project
a project of the National Lawyers Guild

Hotline: 888 NLG-ECOL (654-3265)
@NLGnews /NLGNational

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