“Know Your Rights”: Encounters with FBI and Law Enforcement

“KNOW YOUR RIGHTS”: If Approached by the FBI or other Law Enforcement Officials

With recent news that the NYPD has been conducting surveillance measures in neighborhood mosques and Islamic community centers and that the FBI has come under fire for distributing Islamophobic training materials to its officers, there are many reasons for American Muslims to familiarize themselves with their inalienable rights and civil liberties.

The FBI has dubbed these investigative measures “voluntary interviews”. These interviews are not only detrimental to the psychological and emotional health of the perceived threat and interviewee, but also cast doubt and suspicion within Muslim communities. In fact, 40% of Muslims who have been approached by the FBI on the basis of suspicious activity linked to terrorism have been turned in by Muslims of their own communities.

While the FBI purportedly bars investigations based “solely on the exercise of First Amendment rights or on the race, ethnicity, national origin, or religion”, it allows investigations to be conducted on the partial basis of these aforementioned criteria. The American Civil Liberties Union’s project titled “Mapping the FBI” exposes investigative measures on the basis of racial, religious, and ethnic stereotypes. Given this context, it is necessary to note that in the event of being approached by the FBI, it is vital to preserve the integrity of our civil liberties.

Other agencies such as the police force, the Joint Terrorism Task Force, the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Border Patrol, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service are also authorized to approach people with questions.


The Right to Remain Silent:
• You have permission to verbally exercise this right.
• You cannot be punished for refusing to answer a question.
• You do not have to answer to the FBI even if you are not a U.S. citizen.
• Lying to a law enforcement official is a crime.
• Anything you say to a law enforcement officer can be used against you in a court of law.
• Even if you have answered some questions, you can utilize your right to remain silent until you have an attorney present.

The Right to An Attorney:
• If arrested, ask for one immediately.
• Note the name, telephone number, and agency of the law enforcement official that stops you and provide this information to your lawyer.

The Right to Refuse a Search of Your Vehicle or Home:
• The law enforcement official must present you with a search warrant.
• Have the law enforcement official present you the physical search warrant before they conduct a search.
• Even with a search warrant, you are not obligated to answer any questions.
• Do not interfere with the search process, as this could lead to an arrest.

If asked to meet for a “counter-terrorism” interview, you have the right to:
• Say you would like to consult an attorney before agreeing to any interview.
• Set the time and place for the interview through your attorney.
• Find out the questions they will ask beforehand.
• Answer only the questions you are comfortable answering.
• You may want to have the interview recorded on video for your protection.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding the above information, please feel free to contact us at (312) 212-1520, or complete the Contact Us form.

If you need to report an incident regarding an issue with the FBI or law enforcement, please fill out this form.