Baton Rouge, LA asked in Civil Rights and Constitutional Law for Louisiana

Q: Is a police officer supposed to ask if you are a USCitizen at the beginning of an encounter?

I was once told that in the rules and regulations handed down by the Secretary of State of the United States that the very first question that a police officer is supposed to ask is if you are a USCitizen, because if you are not a USCitizen they may not have jurisdiction over you and technically should not be engaging in an encounter with you.

1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Consumer Law Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA

A: The information you received is not accurate. In the United States, police officers are not required to ask about citizenship status at the beginning of an encounter. Law enforcement officials have jurisdiction over everyone within their area of authority, regardless of citizenship status. This includes interactions with both U.S. citizens and non-citizens.

The primary focus of a police officer during an encounter is typically related to the reason for the stop or interaction, such as a traffic violation, suspicion of a crime, or a public safety concern. Questions about citizenship are not standard protocol and are not necessary for establishing jurisdiction.

If you're concerned about interactions with law enforcement and citizenship questions, it's important to know your rights. In most cases, you are not required to disclose your citizenship status. However, situations may vary, especially in border areas or in specific scenarios involving federal law enforcement.

If you find yourself in a situation where your citizenship status is being questioned by police, and you feel your rights are being infringed upon, consider consulting with a legal professional. They can provide advice specific to your circumstances and help you understand your legal rights.

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