Police encounters can be frightening and they have the potential to escalate. The most important aspect of the encounter is your safety so stay in control and remember to exercise your rights. You have the right to be free of searches, to remain silent and to ask for your lawyer-learn about your rights so you can be empowered. If you feel your rights have been violated, you can file a complaint with the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) online or by calling 800-341-2272.
Being respectful, calm and avoiding arguing are the most important things to remember when stopped by an officer. Keep your hands where they can be seen by the police officers and do not run. Also, it’s good to try and memorize the police officers’ names.
If you’re stopped in your car, place your hands on the steering wheel as the police approach. Show the officer your driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance upon request. In certain cases, your car can be searched without a warrant, so to protect yourself later, you should state that you do not consent to a search. It’s unlawful for an officer to arrest you for refusing to consent to a search. If you’re asked to sign a ticket, sign it. You can always fight it later. And if you are suspected of drunk driving, you will be asked to take a breath-alcohol and coordination test. If you fail or refuse to take the test, you will be arrested. Also, your license may be suspended, and your car may be impounded.
If you are a defendant in a criminal case, you must discuss with a criminal attorney any action you might consider taking in connection with your mistreatment by the police.
There are several government agencies that review complaints against the N.Y.P.D. Anyone can file a complaint by contacting Civilian Complaint Review Board:
Civilian Complaint Review Board
40 Rector St. 2nd Floor
New York NY 10006
C.C.R.B. complaints may be filed in person, by telephone, or by mail. Complaint forms are available at all New York City police stations. The C.C.R.B. has authority to investigate and to recommend departmental action against officers engaging in excessive force, abuse of authority, discourtesy, and offensive language.
Complaints about stealing, bribe receiving or “moonlighting” by police should be referred to the N.Y.P.D. Internal Affairs Division by calling 800-PRIDE-PD , or 212-741-8401. Complaints can also be made in person at:
Internal Affairs Division
315 Hudson Street, 3rd floor
New York, NY 10013
Recurrent discriminatory practices at the precinct level should be referred to the State Attorney General, Civil Rights Bureau at 212-416-8000 or by writing to:
New York State Attorney General
Civil Rights Bureau
120 Broadway, 25th floor
New York NY 10271
It’s important to remember that if you are a criminal defendant, or if you, a friend or a relative has been seriously injured by the police, you should consult an attorney before making a complaint to any government agency. Your statement to the government agency may be used against you in your criminal case, or may hurt your chances of winning a civil case. We strongly advise against initiating a civilian complaint on your own while a criminal or civil action is pending. The officer you are complaining about will be shown your C.C.R.B. complaint against him before your case is presented in court. Both the C.C.R.B. and the I.A.D. will accept a complaint that is fi led by your lawyer, and postpone taking your statement until your case is over.
Both the C.C.R.B. and the I.A.D. will accept a complaint that is filed by your lawyer, and postpone taking your statement until your case is over.
The New York City Policing Roundtable 212-244-4664 can provide you with the names of a number of experienced attorneys who specialize in cases involving police abuse and civil rights violations. Other organizations that may be able to assist you are:
The information in this document has been prepared by The Legal Aid Society for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. You should not act upon any information without retaining professional legal counsel.
Last Updated: 12 June 2023
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