What To Do When Stopped By The Police

The Organization works to promote respect for human rights, Rule of law and cooperation between civil society and law enforcement agencies, in the lawful discharge of their duties to the community they are suppose to serve in Nigeria and have three programme focus areas namely Justice, Security and Democratic Reforms.

We hope the brochure will be helpful to you in preventing unpleasant experiences with the police, such as avoidable arrest and detention. We urge, however, that you do not rely on it as legal advice.

Where are you coming from?
Where are you going to?
Where do you live?
Do you have an identity card?

These are very simple questions, which can be easily answered by almost everyone. But when a police officer is involved, it can cause a lot of problem both for the officer and YOU. Most of the time, there is reason for the officer to question you even if it may not seem so at the time. The officer may be investigating a complaint in the neighborhood, or following up on a radio call concerning a crime committed in the area. For one reason or the other, you may be the individual that the police suspect. You may have knowledge that will help in the investigation, or the officer may think that you are experiencing some kind of trouble.

Sometimes, the manner in which the police questions you may involve not respecting YOUR RIGHTS. Sometimes, you may over react to the questions and create a more serious situation. We will attempt to explain your rights, what to remember, and what to expect when an officer starts asking you a lot of questions… it could save you from answering a lot more unnecessarily.

If you are driving a vehicle, the police can ask you to stop at any time. The best thing to do in this situation is to park and follow the direction of the officer. You will probably to be asked to produce your driver’s licence and particulars of the vehicle. This you must do, if asked. If you are stopped at night, turn on your interior light and show the officer that nothing is wrong. It is best to nothing, which may give reason to search further. Having your light on and keeping your hand on the steering-wheel will usually put the officer’s mind at ease.

Chances are that the officer might ask you to go if you have all your papers. The officer might say that you have violated traffic rules, if your papers are not correct or ask you to come out of your car for search duty. Remember that he or she in all these activities must respect your right of course, you may explain at any point in this encounter, but you should limit your comments. Be careful of how to make your points. A simple traffic violation may start causing you a fortune in fines for other violations. If you think that you have not violated any traffic rule then carry your protest to the superior officer or the High Court.


Most of the problems you may encounter with the police can be avoided. Remember, they think they have reason (probable cause) to stop you and ask questions.
At this time, you should stop, collect your thoughts and remain calm. Whether or not you are arrested, may just depend on how calm and prepared you are at this time. There are many factors that the police may take into consideration when observing you. Every situation is different and the officer may consider the following factors:

• When you are running and a crime has been reported in the area.
• If you are hanging around with people under police investigation.
• You are near an area where crime has just been reported
• You are in an area which the police believe to be abandoned or unoccupied
• You are acting in a manner, which appear to be suspicious. The possession of stolen property.
• Someone else has identified you to the police
• When you use derogatory or offensive language… you may be saying the right thing at the wrong time.
• While these things are taken into consideration when questioning you, the police


If the police knocks at your door, you do not have to let them in unless there is a signed warrant. Always ask to see the warrant. If it is proper on its face, you must step aside and let them into your house. If it is arrest warrant, look at the name on the warrant to make certain they have the right person. If it is a search warrant, make sure the address is correct and what is specifically listed on the WARRANT to be searched for in your house. If the police do not have a warrant, you do not have let them in unless they insist. Perhaps, you can settle this matter at the door. If they do insist, over your objections, then be careful to:

• First, ask for a police identity card
• Second, ask the purpose of entering your house
• Third, let them in only after they insist
• Fourth, if you object, make sure that the police know that you do not consent to any search of your house.
• Fifth, remember identity card numbers, officer’s face and the time of the day. Write this information down.

The police are not required to give you a receipt for property they intend to book as evidence such as stolen goods, guns etc. However, when property is taken from your home, ask the police for a receipt. The police may also search without a warrant whenever arresting an individual. They may search the individual under arrest, the area of arrest, and the room where the arrest were made if inside the home. They may also search after consent is given, or if there an emergency (for example, someone screaming for help inside your house), or when chasing you or someone else into your home.


• If the police have stopped you, they believe they have a reason to do so.
• It is best to be calm and identify your self
• In many situations you can talk your way into arrest or detention as well as talk yourself out of trouble by yelling, threatening or swearing at an officer, the BEST you can do is get yourself arrested… and who need that? Persons who feel that police has violated his/her fundamental right can report such to Office of Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) in all Police State Headquarters in Nigeria.

Further information on your rights in relation to Law Enforcement, contact 

Community Policing Partners for Justice Security and Democratic Reforms
44 Ikot Abasi Road, Oku Abak
Abak Local Government Area
P.O. Box 861 Abak 532101
Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria.
Tel: +234-806-668064, 802-3811786, 7088738308, 8099911146
Email: comppart@comppartfoundation.org, humanrightabak@yahoo.com
Website: www.comppartfoundation.org

Work in partnership with the police and other Law Enforcement Agencies in your community to reduce Crime, Conflicts and Violence in our Society.


Leave a reply