Can police just approach me and ask me questions?

1. Ask if you’re being detained

The police can approach you and ask questions at any time. You don't have to stop and let the police question you unless they have you or you. When the police detain you, this means you are not allowed to leave. When you are detained you do not have to talk to the police. You do not have to answer their questions or give them your name or address if you don't want to. You do not have an obligation to say anything.

What to say

The police are legally allowed to detain you if they have to suspect you're connected to a crime they're investigating. Being detained isn't the same as being arrested.

If you're not sure if you're being detained, you can tell the police you don't wish to talk to them. Ask, “Am I free to leave?” If the police say you can go, simply walk away.

If the police say you are not free to go, you're being detained. You will have to stay until the police allow you to leave.

Your rights

You have the right to be told why you're being detained.

When the police detain you, they can pat you with their hands to make sure you're not a threat to them or the public. This is called a protective pat-down search. They aren't allowed to empty your pockets, purse, or other type of bag. They are only allowed to frisk you to find and take away weapons.

While you're being detained, you don't have to answer any questions the police ask you. You have the right to remain silent.

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