Your Rights with D.C. Police

You have rights when interacting with police.

This section applies everywhere in the U.S. Adapted from the ACLU Know Your Rights guide.

If you’re stopped by police:

  • You do not have to talk to the police. You have the right to remain silence. You may have to give police your name, but no other information is required. You do not need to show your ID.
  • Do not lie to police, it is a crime. However, police can lie to you, so it’s important to know what your rights are.

If you’re stopped on the street:

  • Ask if you are free to go.  If yes, walk away.  If no, ask what you are being detained for. They need to have a reason to arrest you.
  • Police can pat you down during a stop. You can refuse to consent (agree) to a search, but they may still do it. If you’re trans and in D.C., see below.

If you’re stopped in a car:

  • If you are driving, you must show your license, registration, and proof of insurance.
  • Keep your hands where police can see them.
  • You may refuse to consent to have your car searched, but police may have legal grounds to search it anyway.
  • Police may separate passengers and the driver to question them, but no one has to answer any questions.

If you’re not a documented citizen:

  • You do not have to reveal your immigration status to any government official.
  • If you are arrested, you have the right to call your consulate or family or have the police inform the consulate of your arrest. Do not talk to ICE without talking to an immigration lawyer first.

You have even more rights with the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department.

These rights only apply in D.C. and only if you declare to the officers that you are transgender. It is up to you whether you want to out yourself as trans. They also apply to anyone under 18.

  • You cannot be stopped for being trans.
  • You can’t be frisked to “determine” your gender.
  • Officers must respect your name and pronouns.
  • Officers can’t ask about your body, surgeries, etc.
  • Officers cannot perform squat searches in front of other people or in public.
  • Officers cannot make you remove clothes, hair, falsies, binding, etc unless they think it will pose a threat.
  • During arrest and booking, you can ask to be searched by a male or female officer.
  • You should be placed in an individual holding cell for the length of time you’re held by MPD.
  • If moved, you should be transported separately.
  • If you have an old record with MPD, they must update it to reflect your current name and gender.

On Sex Work and the “Prostitution Free Zones”

Note: legislation is currently being considered to repeal prostitution-free zones from DC law. In the meantime, PFZs are suspended in DC. 

  • To crack down on street-based sex work, the MPD issues Prostitution Free Zones where a group of 2 or more people believed to be engaging in “prostitution” or “prostitution related offenses” can be asked to “move along” or face imprisonment for up to 180 days and/or fined $300.
  • Carrying 2+ condoms is NOT proof of sex work and you cannot be charged for it.
  • Signs legally must be posted around the PFZ:,a,1238,q,560843.asp
  • Being trans can never be used as evidence of prostitution, and police cannot stop you just because they think you are trans.
  • For trans-positive, non-judgmental assistance, resources, and services for sex workers in D.C., call the 24-hour HIPS Hotline at 202.232.8150.

Click here to read a full copy of MPD’s General Order 501-02: Handling Interactions with Transgender Individuals.

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