Your Rights in New York City
Know your rights when you interact with the police.
Police officers are allowed to ask you certain questions and take certain investigative actions if you are in a public place or in a car. But you also have rights. Here, find a brief explanation of your rights and what to expect from police officers.
In fact, there are different types of encounters with officers. And in the leading case, People v. DeBour, the New York Court of Appeals determined that when interacting with a civilian, there are limits on the officer’s authority depending on the circumstances of the encounter. This sounds confusing and it is.
There are four levels of police encounters. In a Level 1 encounter, an officer may approach someone and ask general, non-accusatory questions. In a Level 2 encounter, the officer may ask accusatory questions. In a Level 3 encounter, the officer may stop someone and make it clear that they are not free to leave; the officer might also, depending on the circumstances, have the legal authority to frisk or search them. A Level 4 encounter is an arrest or summons.
No matter what, if you are stopped, please remember:
- Do not physically resist being arrested, even if you believe the police are treating you unfairly. Resisting arrest may include any action that physically interferes with an officer’s effort to detain you. This can result in a charge and may make the situation more dangerous.
- Do not lie to police. Remember, you have the right to remain silent.
- Try to carry an ID. NY Law does not require you to carry an ID unless you are operating a motor vehicle. Having an ID is helpful for establishing your identity.
If you think you have experienced or witnessed police misconduct, you can file a complaint with the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB).
The information in this web site is not intended to constitute legal advice or to substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney licensed in the appropriate jurisdiction.
4 Levels of Police Encounters
A brief explanation of your rights and what to expect from police officers.
Questioning (Level 1)
In a Level 1 encounter, an officer approaches someone and asks general, non-accusatory questions.
Accusatory Questioning (Level 2)
In a Level 2 encounter the officer asks accusatory questions.
Stop / Detention (Level 3)
In a Level 3 encounter, the officer stops someone and makes it clear that they are not free to leave; the officer might also frisk or search them.
Arrest or Summons (Level 4)
A Level 4 encounter is an arrest.
If you are driving or riding in a car, police officers can ask you certain questions and take certain actions.
Body-Worn Cameras (BWCs)
NYPD officers and supervisors regularly assigned to patrol are equipped with body-worn cameras (BWC), and they are required to turn them on when engaging in any police action. You have a right to request BWC videos from an encounter you have with the police.
Report Any Issues
If you experience a disrespectful or otherwise inappropriate encounter with a police officer, including if an officer inappropriately fails to offer or provide you with a business card at the end of an encounter, you can file a complaint with the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB). The CCRB’s purpose is to investigate and mediate complaints about misconduct by NYPD officers.
You can file a complaint by doing any of the following:
- Complete the CCRB online complaint form;
- Call 1 (800) 341-2272;
- Call 311;
- File a complaint in person at the CCRB office (100 Church St., 10th Fl., New York, NY 10007); or
- Write a letter to CCRB at the above address; or
- Go to any police station and either file a complaint there or pick up a CCRB complaint form and fill it out at home and mail it to the above address.
You may also want to:
Request body-worn camera footage from your encounter
- Visit the NYC Open Records Page
- When filling out the “Request a Record” form, be sure to choose the New York City Police Department as the agency that will handle your request and to choose Body Worn Camera as the Request Type, before filling out the details of the incident and your personal information.
- If your request is denied, you have the right to appeal the denial.
- Email a detailed account of the incident and your reason for request to email@example.com; or
- Schedule an in-person request for a records appointment by calling (646) 610-5296
Request the Stop Report for your encounter (the police department’s record of what happened) by visiting the NYPD Stop Report Request Page.
- To request a Stop Report, you must include the date and time of the incident, as well as the borough and street address or intersection where it took place. It is also helpful to include any officers’ names, their shield numbers, the precinct where the incident took place, and any other details about the incident you may have.