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ACLU: Know Your Rights

By Haley McCord
On October 29, 2015

On October 20, spokespersons from the American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia (ACLU) visited Concord and met in room 304 of Rahall to speak about ACLU’s main purpose in West Virginia. They mentioned several different topics throughout the meeting: Title IX and sexual assault, the Fourteenth Amendment and marriage equality for same-sex couples and interracial couples, what to do when arrested, what to do if stopped by the police, immigration agents, or the FBI and what to do if treated badly by an officer. Approximately thirty people attended the meeting and several Athens residents were able to come for free. According to, “For nearly 100 years, the ACLU has been our nation’s guardian of liberty, working in courts, legislatures, and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties that the Constitution and the laws of the United States guarantee everyone in this country.”  

     While the United States has made overwhelming strides to give same-sex couples the same opportunities as heterosexual couples, the ACLU spokespersons say we still have a lot of progress to make. For example, while same-sex couples can marry in every state, twenty-eight states still do not enforce anti-discriminatory laws. This means that private businesses can discriminate against same-sex couples and the ACLU says “there are still no comprehensive public access laws for LGBT people.” 

After speaking about same-sex marriage and the fight for marriage equality, the spokespersons began speaking on issues involving the police and everyday situations. Many have been pulled over while driving and sometimes it can be hard to know what to do during this process. ACLU provided a list of things to do when pulled over: 

    •    “Stop the car in a safe place as quickly as possible. Turn off the car, turn in the internal light, open the window part way and place your hands on the wheel.

    •    Upon request, show police your driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance.

    •    If an office or immigration agent asks to look inside your car, you can refuse to consent to the search. But if police believe your car contains evidence of a crime, your car can be searched without your consent.

    •    Both drivers and passengers have the right to remain silent. If you are a passenger, you can ask if you are free to leave. If the officer says yes, sit silently or calmly leave. Even if the officer says no, you have the right to remain silent.”

ACLU also provided a list of things to do if you are stopped for questioning or arrested: 

    •    “Stay calm. Don’t run. Don’t argue, resist or obstruct the police, even if you are innocent or police are violating your rights. Keep your hands where the police can see them.

    •    Ask if you are free to leave. If the officer says yes, calmly and silently walk away. If you are under arrest, you have the right to know why.

    •    You have the right to remain silent and cannot be punished for refusing to answer questions. If you wish to remain silent, tell the officer out loud. In some states, you must give your name if asked to identify yourself. 

    •    You do not have to consent to a search of yourself or your belongings, but police may ‘pat down’ your clothing if they suspect a weapon. You should not physically resist, but you have the right to refuse consent for any further search. If you do consent, it can affect you later in court.”

The most important thing to remember about ACLU is that “Whether it’s achieving full equality for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people; establishing new privacy protections for our digital age of widespread government surveillance; ending mass incarceration; or preserving the right to vote or the right to have an abortion; the ACLU takes up the toughest civil liberties cases and issues to defend all people from government abuse and overreach” according to For more information about ACLU, visit, e-mail them at, follow them on twitter at ACLU_WV or call 304-345-9246. 

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