You and The Law

A Guide for Interacting with McFarland Police Officers

The McFarland Police Department is committed to promoting the best possible results in every contact with the public. An element critical to this commitment is working with a public that has a firm understanding of their rights and responsibilities under the law. As such, this publication is intended to outline those rights and responsibilities. When in contact with the police, there are some things you should do, some things you must do, and other things you cannot do. For this reason, the McFarland Police Department provides this information to you.

Contact with Police Officers can occur in many ways including:

  • As a result of a complaint
  • During an investigation
  • During community functions
  • Emergency situations at your home
  • Execution of a search warrant
  • Giving information as a victim or witness
  • Simple traffic stops

What to Expect; Do's & Don'ts

  • You will likely be asked for your name, birth date, address and a form of identification. Officers are required to obtain this information in most cases, and is used to complete police reports.
  • Be polite and respectful; don't get into an argument with the officer.
  • Stay calm, patient, and in control of your words, body language, and emotions.
  • Asking why the action is being taken is acceptable as long is it is not in an obstructive manner.
  • Remember, anything you say or do can be used against you.
  • Keep your hands where the police officer can see them.
  • Don't run
  • Don't touch an officer.
  • Don't interfere with or obstruct the police; you can be arrested for it. Individuals are often tempted to insert themselves into situations involving the police that have nothing to do with them. This is never a good idea.
  • Don't resist during a pat down, search, or an arrest even if you believe you are innocent.
  • Don't complain at the scene or challenge the officer as to the legal action they are taking; you will have the opportunity to make such challenges through other means later in the process.
  • Remember an officer's badge and patrol car numbers. On request, a McFarland police officer will provide his or her business card or identifying information. This information may be helpful if you decide to file a complaint.

If You're Stopped in Your Car

  • There are several reasons why an officer may conduct a traffic stop on a car. The most common reason is they have suspicion of illegal driving behavior, an apparent traffic violation, defective or improper equipment, an expired license, or other related violations.
  • Officers may also stop a vehicle if they have a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, including a reasonable suspicion that the vehicle is being, may be, or has been used in the commission of a crime or violation of ordinance. They may also make a stop to arrest a vehicle occupant on a warrant.
  • When an officer signals you to stop, try to park in a safe manner by driving a short distance at a reduced speed to a point where you can park safely on the side of the road and out of the flow of traffic.
  • Stay in your vehicle unless asked to get out. It is never a good idea to get out of your vehicle unless instructed to.
  • You will be asked for your driver's license. It is routine for an officer to check with the State Division of Motor Vehicles to determine the validity of both the driver's license and the vehicle registration, and whether there are any outstanding warrants. This will take a few minutes or more even if a citation is not issued.
  • If you don't have a driver's license or other valid identification with you, you may be taken to a police station. Always carry your driver's license with you when you drive...see s.343.18(1),Wis. Statutes).
  • If you have reason to doubt that a real police officer is stopping you, there are steps you can take to help ensure your safety. Click here for more information.
  • You do not have to consent to any search of your person or your vehicle, but a police officer may still search if there is probable cause or reasonable suspicion that a violation of law has been, is being, or will be committed.
  • You may be given a ticket or citation if the stop was for a traffic violation, or for a violation of Village Ordinance. In a probable cause or reasonable suspicion stop, the officer should inform you of why you are being stopped.
  • Instructions on how you may challenge a citation will be given to you.

If You're Arrested or Taken to a Police Station

  • You are not required to talk to the police other than providing your name and address, but doing so may resolve an issue more quickly. Don't give any false information, as you could be charged with obstructing an investigation.
  • You have the right to a lawyer if you so choose. If you can't pay for a lawyer, you have a right to have a Public Defender appointed at no charge. If you desire a lawyer, ask the police how a lawyer may be contacted.
  • The only exception to this is in the event of an arrest for Operating While Intoxicated (OWI). Under Wisconsin's Implied Consent Law, you have already consented to testing and participation in the related routine questions that officers will ask during the process, such as the questions found on the Alcohol Influence form. Any questioning beyond or outside of the scope of those pertaining to the OWI violation are not subject to this exception.

In Your Home

  • You do not have to let the police into your home unless they have a warrant signed by a judge. However, in some emergency situations like when a person is screaming for help inside or when the police are chasing someone, officers are allowed to enter and search your home without a warrant. This is known as the Exigent Circumstances exception.

If You're Stopped for Questioning

  • It is not a crime to refuse to answer questions, but not answering may raise suspicions about you.
  • You can't be arrested simply for refusing to identify yourself on the street.
  • Police may pat down your clothing if they suspect a concealed weapon. Don't resist, but clearly state your objections.
  • Ask if you are under arrest. If you are, you have a right to know why.
  • Don't argue with or bad-mouth the police officer, or run away even if you believe what is happening is unreasonable. That could lead to your arrest.

In Closing

Everyone, regardless of age, gender, race, or religion is entitled to courteous, respectful, and equal treatment by and service from the police. The McFarland Police Department prides itself in conducting its business with integrity, transparency, and with the best interest of the community always in mind.

We also encourage input from the residents that we serve. If you would like to speak with Lt. Redman regarding department operations, procedures or practices, feel free to contact him.