YOUR RIGHTS

  • You have the right to remain silent or not speak. If you do not want to speak, say that out loud.
  • You have the right to not give permission to a search of yourself, your car, or your home.
  • You have the right to ask if you are free to leave. If you are not under arrest, you have the right to calmly leave.
  • You have the right to a lawyer if you are arrested. Ask for one as soon as you are arrested.
  • You have the right not to be racially profiled by the police, meaning that police cannot use your race or ethnicity as the reason to think you did something against the law.
  • You have the right not to say anything about your immigration status.

1. If you are stopped for questioning

Q.If you are stopped for questioning
A.
  • Do not run. Do not argue. Do not try to physically block or stop the police. Do not grab or touch the officers. This is true even when you know you have not done anything against the law. This is true when the police are violating your rights. Keep your hands where police can see them. Do not put your hands in your pockets. Keep your hands empty.
  • Ask if you are free to leave. If the officer says yes, calmly and silently walk away. If you are under arrest, you have a right to know why. You have a right to ask why you are being arrested, but do not argue with the officer, and do not volunteer information without first talking with a lawyer to understand how what you say may impact your case.
  • You have the right to remain silent. You cannot be punished for not answering questions. If you want to remain silent, tell the officer out loud. In Iowa, the law is that a person does not have to give their name if a police officer stops them (except for drivers in traffic stops, who must show their driver’s license).
  • But police do not always follow the law. If you do not give police your name, the police might be more suspicious. Each person must decide what is best for them. If you are afraid that giving your name makes you look guilty of a crime, you can say you have the right to remain silent. If you are arrested, staying silent may help you later. Do not give a false name.
  • You do not have to agree to a search of yourself or your belongings. Police may still “pat down” your clothing if they believe you have a weapon. You should not physically try to stop them. You have the right to not agree to any additional search.
  • If you agree to an interview, have a lawyer present. You do not have to answer any questions you feel uncomfortable answering.   You can say that you will only answer questions on a specific topic.

2. If you are arrested

Q.If you are arrested
A.
  • Do not try to physically block or stop the arrest, even if you believe the arrest is unfair.
  • Say you wish to remain silent and ask for a lawyer as soon as you are arrested. Do not give any explanations or excuses. If you do not have money to pay for a lawyer, you have the right to a free one. Don’t say anything, sign any papers, or make any decisions without a lawyer.
  • In Iowa, you have a right to call a lawyer, a member of your family, or both. Officers may not tell you about your right to call your attorney and family member, so you should clearly ask to make these calls. At the jail, the officers may ask you to sign a form stating that you have made all the calls you wish to make. Don’t sign anything without a lawyer. When you make a call, the call usually occurs in the presence of police, but your attorney must be allowed to see and consult with you in private at the jail or other place where you are being held.
  • In advance, if you feel you are at risk for being arrested, it’s a good idea to prepare yourself and your family. Memorize the phone numbers of your family and your lawyer. Make emergency plans if you have children or take essential medication.

Special considerations for non-citizens:

  • Ask your lawyer about the effect of a criminal conviction or plea on your immigration status.
  • Do not discuss your immigration status with anyone but your lawyer.
  • While you are in jail, an immigration agent may visit you. Do not answer questions or sign any papers before you talk to a lawyer.
  • Read all papers carefully. If you do not understand or cannot read the papers, tell the officer you need an interpreter.

3. If you are stopped in your car

Q.If you are stopped in your car
A.
  • Stop the car in a safe place as quickly as possible. Turn off the car.  Turn on the inside light. Keep your hands where police can see them at all times.
  • When you are asked, show the police your driver’s license, car registration, and proof of insurance.
  • If an officer or immigration agent asks to look inside your car, you can refuse to let them. If you agree to a search, it could hurt your case later. If police believe your car contains evidence of a crime, your car can be searched without your agreement.
  • Both drivers and passengers have the right to remain silent. If you are a passenger, you can ask if you are free to leave. If the officer says yes, sit silently or calmly leave. If the officer says no, sit silently. As a passenger, you have the right to remain silent.

4. If you are questioned about your immigration status

Q.If you are questioned about your immigration status
A.
  • You have the right to remain silent and do not have to discuss your immigration or citizenship status with police, immigration agents, or any other officer.
  • Do not lie about your citizenship status or provide fake documents.
  • Iowa does not have a “show me your papers” law. That means Iowa state and local police should not ask you for immigration papers or question you about your immigration status. However, Iowa law enforcement routinely shares information about who is arrested and being held in jail with federal immigration officials, who then may decide to investigate civil immigration violations.

5. If the police or immigration agents come to your home

Q.If the police or immigration agents come to your home
A.
  • If the police or immigration agents come to your home, you do not have to let them in unless they have certain kinds of warrants. A warrant is a document that gives the police permission to make an arrest or search an area.
  • Ask the officer to slip the warrant under the door or hold it up to the window so you can read it. A search warrant allows police to enter the address listed on the warrant, but officers can only search the areas and for the items listed.
  • An arrest warrant allows police to enter the home of the person listed on the warrant if they believe the person is inside.
  • But be careful to see that it is a real warrant before giving your permission to officials to come in the home: 
    • A real warrant will always be signed by a judge.
    • Federal immigration officials sometime show up with a different kind of document, which they also call a “warrant” of removal/deportation (ICE warrant). But most ICE “warrants” are not actually signed by a judge, and do not allow officers to enter a home without permission.
  • If officers have a warrant, you still have the right to remain silent. If you choose to speak to the officers, step outside and close the door.

6. If you are taken into immigration (or ICE) custody

Q.If you are taken into immigration (or ICE) custody
A.
  • You have the right to a lawyer, but the government does not have to provide one for you. If you do not have a lawyer, ask for a list of free or low-cost legal services. You have the right to contact your consulate or have an officer inform the consulate of your arrest.
  • Tell the ICE agent you wish to remain silent. Do not discuss your immigration status with anyone but your lawyer. Do not sign any papers before talking to a lawyer.
  • If you sign a paper, you may be giving up your opportunity to try to stay in the U.S. Remember your immigration number (“A”) number and give it to your family. It will help family members locate you. Keep a copy of your immigration documents with someone you trust.
  • If you are not a U.S. citizen and a federal immigration (ICE) agent requests your immigration papers, you are required to show them if you have them with you. If you are over 18, carry your immigration documents with you at all times.

7. If you are contacted by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI)

Q.If you are contacted by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI)
A.
  • If an FBI agent comes to your home or workplace, you do not have to answer any questions. Tell the agent you want to speak to a lawyer first.
  • If you are asked to meet with the FBI agents for an interview, you have the right to say you do not want to be interviewed.

8. Do I have to give my name or other information?

Q.Do I have to give my name or other information?
A.

Iowa does not have a law that requires you to talk to police. Iowa does not have a law that requires you to provide your name or other information, but there are two exceptions to this rule:

Exception 1: Drivers in a traffic stop must provide their driver's license if the police request it.

  • Drivers who are stopped by police in a traffic stop must provide their driver's license, proof of insurance, and car registration when requested. Passengers do not need to provide an ID or tell police their name(s).
  • Police don't always follow the law. If a person does not give a name, the police may be suspicious, so individuals should use their judgment. It is a misdemeanor in Iowa to give a false name.   People should be honest or say nothing. Do not lie.

Exception 2: Non-U.S. citizens must provide ICE agents (but not Iowa state or local police) with immigration papers if ICE agents request the papers.

  • For non-U.S. citizens, in Iowa, Iowa state and local police are not allowed to ask people for their immigration papers.
  • If a federal immigration (ICE) agent requests a non-citizen's immigration papers, the noncitizen is required to show the papers if the non-citizen has the papers with them. If the non-citizen is over 18, they should carry their immigration documents with them at all times. If the non-citizen does not have his or her papers, they should say that they wish to remain silent.

9. If you feel your rights have been violated

Q. If you feel your rights have been violated
A.
  • Do not physically block or stop officers or say that you are going to file a complaint. Write down everything you remember, including the officer’s name, badge, patrol car numbers, which agency the officers were from, and any other details. Get contact information from witnesses.
  • If you are injured, as much as possible, take photographs of your injuries.
  • If you want to learn about legal options, talk to an attorney.
  • You may file a written complaint with the law enforcement agency, whether or not you speak to an attorney, but you may wish to talk to an attorney before doing so. In most cases, you can file a complaint anonymously if you want. This means that your name and identifying details will not be included in the complaint.
  • You may also contact the ACLU of Iowa. Email legal.program@aclu-ia.org or send written materials to Legal Program, ACLU of Iowa, 505 5th Ave., #808, Des Moines, Iowa, 50309. The information will be kept confidential.

This information is not intended as legal advice. Produced by the ACLU of Iowa, August 2021.