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What Are the Common Types Of Police Encounters People Find Themselves In?

Most people will experience some sort of police encounter in their lifetime, whether it’s police-initiated or resident-initiated. For instance, in 2015, 21% of U.S residents at least 16 years old were estimated to have encountered the police within the previous 12 months. Most of the encounters occurred as a result of a traffic stop. Others were resident initiated, like reporting a non-crime emergency like a fire outbreak or reporting criminal or suspicious activity. In this article, we will be discussing the most common types of police encounters that most people find themselves in. You can consult a Fort Worth Criminal Lawyer if you are involved in any of these situations in TX.

Types Of Police Encounters 


Consensual is a type of police encounter where an officer approaches a stranger in a random space and has a talk with them, whether they're investigating a crime scene or a typical conversation. For instance, suppose you are hanging out at a random public place or carrying on with your duties at your home, then an officer arrives and starts asking questions. This happens because the law gives them some power to exercise their duty. As part of their duty, police are responsible for protecting citizens, their property, and the community they reside and serve in. In essence, an officer has the power to invade your personal space and ask questions.

However, just because a police officer has approached you doesn’t mean you’re suspected of committing a particular crime. It means you have a legal obligation to uphold the law by cooperating with the police and answering every question that they might ask you. But this rule has an exception. You have the right not to answer the police when approached. It’s not your legal duty to cooperate, so it's your decision to answer the police queries or keep quiet—also called the right of silence. In this instance, you shouldn't talk without your lawyer being present. However, if you're approached by police during a consensual encounter and decide to talk, you should ensure that anything you say is to your best knowledge. In other words, you should stay away from lying to the police. Otherwise, you might get punished for the “obstruction of official business.”

Police Have Stopped You

Suppose you’re walking or jogging or running when an officer of the law shouts, “stop, I need to ask you something.”  Furthermore, while in the process of  instructing you to comply, the officer pulls out a weapon, or uses a certain voice that suggests some kind of threat. That makes it clear that you are being ‘stopped’ by the police. In essence, they are using their authority to get to you.

So, what leads the police to ‘stopping’ you while carrying on with your endeavors? The most common reason is when the police have enough reason that you’ve been involved in some criminal activity. For them to interfere with your freedom to move, they must have a viable explanation. If the matter winds up in court, the officer should provide enough proof that supports the reason behind them stopping you. 

Unlike the police encounter by consent, the ‘Stop’ approach often suggests that you’re already a suspect. For an officer of the law to use force to get to you, you must have depicted signs of suspicion, even if you are the person that summoned them. Also, the officer doesn’t have to tell you whether they intend to arrest you or you’re a suspect once they exercise the use of authority. They might also recite your Miranda rights.

So, what are your rights when ‘stopped?’ You have the right to remain silent. You are not obliged to answer any posed questions under any circumstances, whether there is a reason or not. To invoke your rights, you can say, ‘I wish to remain silent or ‘I wish to speak to my lawyer.’ 

Pulled Over by Police 

Other encounters by police are termed as police-initiated. The most prevalent of these encounters occur when individuals are pulled over while driving their vehicles during a traffic stop. Most drivers who are pulled over are often given a legitimate reason behind them being stopped. The most common reason for traffic stops is often overspeeding. 

Besides being pulled over for speeding, the traffic police might stop you for other reasons like vehicle defects, illegal lane changes and turns, record checks, or stop lights/signs violations. Surprisingly, the police might fail to give the reason for the stop in certain instances. For example, a 2015 public traffic report depicted that 2% of traffic stops provided no reason for all traffic pullovers. Most of these drivers were mostly 65 years and above, with younger drivers likely to be given reasons for the pullover. However, 56% of these reported that the police properly behaved when pulled over.

If the police pull you over, they might give you a ticket, a warning, or fail to issue an enforcement action. In extreme cases, they might search you or even arrest you if they see fit. However, a traffic officer is more likely to enforce the law if they stop you for a reason than when they have no reason for the pullover.

Reporting A Potential Crime Or Non-Crime Activity 

Residents might encounter the police to report a crime or a non-crime activity. In a 2015 public report, at least 6.7% of U.S residents encountered the police by reporting a crime, a form of disturbance, or an activity they perceived as suspicious. On the other hand, 3.5 % of the residents summoned the police upon having a non-crime emergency, whether it was a traffic accident or a medical emergency.

Surprisingly, females are perceived as more likely to report a crime, emergency, or suspicious activity than males. While only 6.3% of males reported to the police in 2015, the number of females was higher at around 7%.  Also, that goes for individuals aged 25 to 64 than those within other age brackets, whether they report criminal activity or a medical emergency.