It is amazing to me whenever I watch an episode of COPS how many times people incriminate themselves or basically serve their own arrest up to a police office on a silver platter. Many of these cases are justified, and I think THEY should be in jail for the offense, however on occasion I see incidences where the person wasn’t exactly doing anything wrong, but they opened themselves up for scrutiny that led to an arrest. They might have been innocent of the crime for which the police came, but they ended up in jail anyway.
Now I don’t want to get emails and comments from former/active Law Enforcement or other folks saying that you Cops need to be able to do their job etc, and that this sort of advice gets in the way of “getting the bad guys”. Or to argue the idiotic concept of “If your not doing anything wrong you shouldn’t worry”.
I respect your opinions and you service, however these protections are not there for good cops no just law has ever been put in place for the good folks in society, they are there because of the bad apples, those who seek to rule over others and infringe on their rights. That’s why we have these protections against law enforcement, and yes that even includes the dirt bags. It is liberty for all, not for a select few. I also understand that many look at these things as “technicalities” that let dirt bags off, However if they fricken obeyed the laws themselves and followed them they wouldn’t have to worry about dirt bags getting off because you illegally searched their property, etc.
Below are some tips that will help you know your rights, as well as to keep any meeting with law enforcement, safe and smooth.
TRAFFIC STOP/IN VEHICLE
1) When you are being pulled over, find the closest safe point to do so, indicate you are doing so by slowing down and putting on your blinker.
2) Once you are pulled over you can reach over and grab the insurance and registration information as well as your wallet. Put those on the dash and keep your hands visible on the steering wheel near the top of the steering wheel, not the bottom where they can be obscured and cause some concern for the Cop. Turn off the radio and roll down your window enough to be able to hear him/her and pass through your information.
3) Once the officer reaches your window, If you are carrying a weapon, advise him that you are, where it is and what condition it is in. Such as…
“Officer I wish to inform you that I am carrying a pistol, It is holstered and on my hip (or wherever”
If you are a CCW holder then say..
“Officer I wish to inform you in accordance with __(STATE)___ Law, that I am a concealed carry permit holder and am carrying a holstered revolver on my hip (or wherever)”
Most states even ones without CCW requirements require you to inform officers once they approach you that you are carrying a weapon.
Then inform them that you have your CCW permit, license, registration and insurance on the dash (or wherever it might be at the time).
3) He will most likely tell you to keep you hands away from the area with the weapon(if you are carrying) and to hand him all the pertinent documents.
It is very important, especially if you are carrying that you don’t jerk to grab the insurance, etc out of the dash, etc. Fast movements tend to make cops nervous, that’s why i advise to just have them out and on the dash before he gets there. If you cant get it all together BEFORE he gets to rear of your vehicle just keep your hands on the wheel and wait for him to ask you for them, then SLOWLY with one hand reach for them.
If he asks you to roll down the window completely you don’t necessarily have to, but I’m not going to piss off a cop and be a stickler over something small like this. There is no law on the books that you have to roll it all the way down, just that you have to hand over the necessary documents upon request. I keep it open enough to hand them out, but like I said, I don’t make a issue out of it if they ask me too. Yes it is your right, you make the call
4) Once the officer takes your information he will go back to his car to run the info. Keep still, don’t turn the car on, don’t blast the radio, etc. Just sit there and wait.
5) If the Officer writes you a citation, etc. Just take the ticket, your documents and ask “Am I free to go” If the officer says “Yes” then go. Don’t complain, yell or be a jackass. Take the ticket and pay it or fight it in the courts, no cop has ever been persuaded from giving out a ticket by you yelling at them!
6) IF the officer hands you the ticket and starts asking you questions like “We have had reports of people running marijuana/oxycontin etc through this area, can i take a look in your car?” Respond with
“I am exercising my right to remain silent and DO NOT consent to a search, am i free to go?”
If he continues to ask, continue to repeat. Do not consent to a search, do not say anything else but this regardless of any “If you aren’t hiding anything what do you have to worry about? Just let me search your car quick and you can be on your way.”
Why should you?
BECAUSE YOU HAVE EVERY RIGHT TO!
You never know what someone else that has been in your car had on them, your kids friends may be bad apples and had some drugs that fell out, a previous owner may have sewn up some drugs somewhere you never knew about, you may have a gas can that has a unapproved cap on it in the trunk, whatever. Even if you have none of the above OR anything at all, the police have no right to search your car without a warrant or probably cause. The reason so many of our freedoms are being infringed upon is because we collectively have acquiesced and allowed our rights to be usurped for the reason of “if you don’t have anything to hide, you shouldn’t worry”
Courts have ruled that your vehicle does not have the same rights as the home, however only with probable cause or consent can they search your vehicle. The 4th amendment guarantees your rights against unreasonable search and seizures. If you do not consent to a search and the police do so anyways, without probably cause they cannot use any evidence found in that search against you.
7) If from the time of the initial stop has been over 20 minutes and the Officer is still trying to get you to consent to a search, etc. If the “I am exercising my right to remain silent and DO NOT consent to a search, am i free to go?” has not been heeded then advise the officer that “You are unreasonably delaying my freedom of travel, can you contact your supervisor please.”
8) If this has been an hour or so, then ask the officer “Officer may I contact my attorney”
This is a good reason to meet with (with free consultations) attorneys in your area, find one that seems decent and keep their card with number in your phone and wallet.
If you are unable to call for one reason or another (i.e. no cell phone) or the officer will not allow you to call your attorney then continue on to the next few statements/question. If you are able to call an attorney DO NOT. Keep silent, and wait.
9) “Officer what are the reasons you are detaining or arresting me?” If he responds that you are not under arrest, then ask him “Am I free to go”
If he responds that you are under arrest, do not say anything, keep silent and call your attorney once you reach detention or as soon as you can. No matter who questions you, etc. Keep silent until your attorney arrives. If you cannot afford one, request a public defender and refuse to talk until you have spoken to one.
10) If he still will not let you leave, or say plainly that you have been detained or arrested then ask them
“Officer do you have any probable cause or reasonable suspicion that i have or am going to commit a criminal offense?”
If he answers no, then ask”Am i free to go?” if he says no ask ”Is there anything in plain view that gives you reason to believe i have or am about to commit a criminal offense?” If he answers no, ask again “Am i Free to go?”
11) If he still says no, ask him “Are there any new statutes, laws or legal doctrine that I may not be aware of that gives you CAUSE to detain me?” If he answers No, then ask again “Am i free to go”
By now you should have established that you know your rights. Don’t be the guy that all he does is be asked a question and then scream “I KNOW MY RIGHTS!” Yes you do, but anyone can say that.
If the officer still wont let you leave, then continue to ask If you are free to go, he will either let you go or arrest you for whatever reason. Then just call your attorney and keep silent, keep silent, keep silent.
If at any time during this conversation he/she becomes bothered and rips you out of the car, do not resist, put your arms up, say ‘I am not resisting, I do not consent to a search”
THROUGHOUT THE CONVERSATION DO NOT RAISE YOUR VOICE, even if you are being pulled from a vehicle be calm and collected.
If the officer does pull you out, pat you down and start to search your vehicle or say that they are calling K9, etc to conduct a search say this.
“I do not consent to a search, this search is noncensentual and unconstitutional, you have stated you have no probably cause, suspicion and have seen nothing in plain view to give you cause to believe i have or will commit a criminal act. This is an illegal search and all evidence will be inadmissible”
There are other legal concepts you can throw in there, but the average officer will have no idea what you are talking about most likely.
Why say all this? Because preceding this you have asked all the questions to remove any reason as to WHY they would have a right to search you and your vehicle. This will provide immense protection in court.
For brevities sake you might just ask parts 10 and 11 all at once after they have responded you are not under arrest
“Officer do you have probable cause, reasonable suspicion, or have seen anything in plain view that might give you cause to believe i have or will commit a criminal act? Are there any new legal statues or doctrine that give you cause to detain me?” This way you can cover all your bases at once.
Now will saying all of this still mean you wont go to jail? not necessarily there are still judges out there that side with LE on everything short of execution. However in the long haul this may help in any appeals process.
However 9 times out of 10 you will be be “free to go” once you start asking the right questions.
By asking these questions you are keeping him on the defensive having to prove WHY you are still there instead of not answering the questions he is asking.
Once again follow the ABC’s (ALWAYS BE COOL) Never yell, threaten, jump out of the car, etc. This is a sure way to get your ass thrown in jail, and you will set yourself up for a much better defense if you are seen as the one being calm and the officer freaking out, vs you yelling and screaming about your rights and the Gestapo. In the end the officer will do whatever he wants to do, constitutional or not, if he drags you out, just take it, stay calm, and wait to talk to your attorney. YOU WILL NEVER WIN by being a machismo a-hole and fighting back, etc. You wont always win by being calm, but you will have a 100% better chance by doing so.
A few more caveats.
- If you Unlock the car at the request of the officer or hand him your keys this is the same as “consenting” to a search, don’t do it. If police TELL you to, you have the same right to refuse “I do not consent to any searches.”
- You cannot be held while waiting for Drug Dogs. If dogs are already present they are allowed to walk the dog AROUND the vehicle. If the dog smells something they have probable cause for a search. However you cannot be held indefinitely until dogs arrive. If they cannot get dogs by the time it take to run your plates/info, it is not in the right. If they make you wait continue to say “I do not consent to a search” Repeat this once they arrive.
- A Passenger in a vehicle cannot be held responsible for a drivers conduct, and are generally free to leave unless police become “suspicious” Because evidence needed to detain passengers is minimal you MUST REMEMBER TO REFUSE SEARCH REQUESTS AND DO NOT ANSWER ANY QUESTIONS!!!! Why? because if you say you are on your way to buffalo and the driver says you are going to Amherst (even though its a suburb of buffalo) even a simple difference in a story can give probably cause to search your vehicle. Just keep your mouth shut.
IN THE HOME
The police may come to your door for whatever reason, whether to question you about something/someone, or a “community outreach” visit, etc.
1) When they knock at the door, You do not have to open the door. You can respond, ask them what they want, but inform them you are not opening the door.
You can also come out to meet them, but shut the door behind you, this removes any “plain view” probably cause.
2) If they ask to come in or for you to open the door, inform them you are not legally obligated to do so without a warrant. If they have one, ask to see it. Then inspect it to make sure it has the proper name, address, etc. If even 1 number or letter is off they do not have the right to come in.
The only exceptions to this are if they hear a cry for help, or can see in the window, etc. and in plain view see criminal activity in progress or evidence of past criminal activity.
Example: You have needles scattered around, or bloody rags, smell of marijuana. You get the idea.
However even with Probably Cause the Supreme Court has ruled that the home has the MAXIMUM protection and they SHOULD have to get a search warrant even with probably cause. However if they force their way in, just say “I do not consent to a search of my home or person, this is a warrant less search” keep repeating it, ask to call your attorney. Say nothing else.
There are some caveats to the protection you have in your home.
Now rentals have less protection due to the fact that you do not own the property. If you live in a rental and the police arrive and ask to come in you can refuse as stated above. The difference being if the landlord or whoever it is that is named on the deed can consent to a search. If you have a wife, roommate they can also consent to a search of your property, however this can be nullified if you say you do not consent to a search, however if they come and you are not there, you are not able to exercise this right. Whoever owns the property or is on a lease agreement can consent to a search so make sure you let those people know that they should NOT consent to a search, etc. Another way to get around this if your roommate say consents to a search but your room/area is locked, since it has been ruled that what is “off limits” to your roommate will also be “off limits” to a police search if you are not there.
If your door is busted down and you hear “Police !(or Sherriff’s department, or any other LE org) we have a search warrant” Just stay still and put your hands up. You cant really do anything at that moment, so just keep your mouth shut. You can ask to see the search warrant, etc. but mostly just keep quiet, stay calm and ask for a lawyer. Do not say anything, Do not say anything, Do not say anything. You will never be in a worse situation because “you didn’t talk”. Wait until your lawyer arrives then talk to him/her and figure out the best course of action.
Police HAVE to announce that they are Police and have a search warrant, this is so homeowners do not shoot them or come out with a gun and get shot. However this isn’t always the case, there are tons of cases of “No knock” warrants being served to the wrong house, a citizen hearing their door being busted open and then coming out to defend themselves and getting shot. Be very careful to make sure that if you hear a crash of a door being busted in that it is NOT police if you are grabbing your gun.
On Foot/In Public
The same advice as stated above applies in these situations as well.
- If a police Officer approaches you and asks you to stop, you are required to stop, if you do not you can be arrested.
- However you are not required to tell the police officer anything or answer their questions, you are within your rights to remain silent
- During the course of this conversation whether you choose to answer the questions or not, ask “Am I free to go?” Just like a traffic stop, continue to ask this.
- You should give your name and address if asked by the Officer, However you are not required to do so unless the police have reasonable suspicion that you have been involved in criminal activity. You can ask “Officer do you have Reasonable Suspicion that I have been involved in Criminal Activity?” You can Also mention that The Supreme Court upheld in Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial Court of Nevada Police that state law can require me to reveal my identity if you have reasonable suspicion that I am involved in criminal activity. This means that they cant just stop you to ask you who you are “just because” only IF they have reasonable suspicion, continue to ask that question as well as “Am I Free to go”
- One way to tell if they have reasonable suspicion is by asking “Officer are you detaining me or Am i Free to go?” If the police have reasonable suspicion then they CAN detain you, thus if they are detaining you they can compel you to identify themselves. If they say “No” to your question of being detained, then tell them if they don’t have reasonable suspicion then i am not required to identify myself, continue to ask “Am i Free to go”
- In the World of State Issued ID’s, if they ask you for your ID and you are not in a vehicle or Flying you are not required to carry one. So if you are just walking down the street and they ask for you ID, you can tell them that you are not required to carry one since you are not operating a motor vehicle, then continue with the questions about reasonable suspicion, Am i free to go? etc.
- If the Police SAY you are detained you are required to identify yourself, and it is up to you to do so as you can be held accountable for NOT. And if you are a victim of mistaken identity this could be cleared up quick. However State laws differ, say in California, if you are on parole, revealing your identity will identify you as a parolee and open to a search. The choice is up to you.
- Reasonable suspicion is a very grey area, and Police Make mistakes, if their “reasonable suspicion” is faulty then their decision to detain you as well as search and identify you is inadmissible in a court. Contact an Attorney afterwords for your legal options.
- Police are NOT required to tell you the truth, In Frazier v. Cupp, 394 U.S. 731, 739 (1969), It was ruled that the ONLY place Police are required to tell the truth is in the courtroom, they can lie and bend the truth to obtain a confession at any time. In Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 the Police are ONLY required to advise you of your rights IF you are in custody and being interrogated about the offense for which you are being confined. If you have been arrested don’t say anything, keep silent, and ask to call an attorney once you have been brought to the police station. If the police put you in interrogation it is often not because they have an open and shut case on you, but they want more information. Don’t believe them when they say “we just want your side of the story”, etc. You can often incriminate yourself without knowing it. An example is say an 18 year old with a 15 year old girlfriend, they tell him they have evidence he raped her, etc. and want “His side of the story” so he tells them NO there was no rape, it was consensual, etc. He has now just confessed to STATUTORY RAPE, a lesser offense but still an offense.
- re D.A.S., 391 A.2d 255, (D.C. App. 1978) the Police pretended to match a suspects fingerprints to ones found on a victims checkbook, when in fact they had not. The Suspect then confessed to the robbery and the Court upheld that the Fabrication of evidence did not invalidate the confession. The evidence which was fake couldn’t be used in a court of course, however if the police are trying to get you to confess to a crime IT IS NEVER IN YOUR INTEREST TO DO SO. Once again stay silent, lawyer up. Don’t sign anything other than the “Inventory” of your personal belongings after you are booked.
- YOU ARE ALLOWED TO RECORD POLICE. Now many cops do not like this, so this does not mean you wont have an altercation or an issue with them. But the First Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld that it is a “constitutionally protected right to videotape police carrying out their duties in public.” This has stipulations.
1) California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Washington require that all parties consent to be recorded if you are recording anything on any tape. However there is a “expectation of privacy provision” that does not apply to on-duty police officers or anyone in “Public”, so if you are recording police from your property or even on a public street while they are conducting Official Business whether its a drug bust or a traffic stop, you are allowed to do so. Only Massachusetts and Illinois do not have this provision. When you are recording however you are NOT allowed to interfere with Officers doing their job, this means you can walk into the house they are busting and get in the middle of it all, or get up in their face during a traffic stop, keep your distance, don’t do anything that could be CONSTRUED as interfering and you are in the right legally.
2) In Massachusetts the only conviction upheld in any state for recording police was only done so because the person SECRETLY recorded the encounter with police. This is the law in most states however. You are not allowed to secretly record a interaction of which you are not party to, this means if you see the cops beating someone up if you go out with a camcorder in hand you are ok, but if its a hidden button camera, etc and you DON’T make them aware of the fact they are being recorded means you can be charged. In most states. Fortunately most judges are rejecting these laws when it refers to your own arrest, etc. But if you want to be 100% in the right, don’t do it in secret, let them know right off the bat they are being recorded.
3) If Police approach you because you are recording them, don’t be an ass saying “I’m doing this so you don’t beat someone” or “I want evidence of you Gestapo assholes!” Be calm and collected, you will only HURT your chances for a positive outcome if the worst happens by being a jerk, especially if you were one first. Say Something like “Officer I am not interfering, I am exercising my first amendment rights upheld by state and federal courts, you are being documented and the recording is being stored off site.” If they ask “who do you work for, what news agency?” If you run a blog, etc. You can tell them that however there is no legal basis for it being necessary to be an accredited journalist to record police. If they ask for you ID, follow the same rules as state above in the “On the Street” Section.
4) If they say “You are not allowed to record police, stop recording its against the law.” This is where you will have to make your own decision. Now if this is just for fun, etc and their is no misconduct or belief their will be, it is up to, since Telling Cops what the law is will never make a situation better, however in a tense situation you may want to be on the up and up of that States Laws which you can find here. You can advise the officer that recording (in most states) only requires the consent of one of the parties and that you are not interfering with his work, if you live in one of the 12 “all party” states you can also advise him that you are familiar with the law and as long as you are not interfering protections against being recorded do not extend to on duty police officers.
5) Don’t share the video with police, if you really want to do this properly, have a device that can upload directly to YouTube, many cameras nowadays offer wifi compatibility that can offer instantaneous upload to YouTube or offline storage site such as this Samsung Galaxy, Samsung WB150f, or Canon 320HS all of which run between $120-$140 . There is also an APP called TapIn for Ipad/Iphone that automatically uploads and streams your video rendering the police unable to take your phone/camera and deleting the information. However you must be aware that if the area you are recording in DOES NOT have WiFi or good 3g/4g service the offsite uploading may not work. If you are recording with an IPhone or other smart phone most of them all have some sort of “LOCK” feature, so if you don’t have all the cool apps or auto-uploads at least have the phone be able to lock, so at least you can slow down the police or stop them from destroying the information.
The QIK app allows you to load video automatically up to YouTube or off site storage, on IPhone and Android Phones it uploads once the phone is turned off, so if you are recording and a cop comes running up to you you can quickly “lock” the phone and it uploads off site and now it is pass code protected and will be still be available even if the phone is destroyed or confiscated. The Bambuster app allows for your phone to keep recording even if it is “turned off” this can allow you to pretend to stop recording but still be doing so. This however is in a more dangerous legal territory, as you could be convicted of “secretly recording” because you said or made it seem that you were no longer doing so. This goes without saying but DO NOT give out your phone pass code if the cop takes the phone.
A Massachusetts woman filmed a cop beating a motorist with a flashlight, she had wiretapping charges filed against her after she posted the video on the Internet, the charges were dropped. Just recently the case of a Cop body slamming a bicyclist in NYC resulted in the Cop being fired and a lawsuit against the city, the video was posted anonymously and went viral. If you automatically upload to a site like YouTube keep all incoming videos default set at “private” this way it is not posted right away, this is so you can consult an attorney first as police have been known to raid the homes of people you post their “police going ape****” videos to YouTube.
There are also after market Dash cams available on the Internet that you can put in your vehicle whether it is front or back or both or wherever. However you must notify the officer the first chance you have, when he approaches your vehicle.
6) Be ready to be arrested, It is a very real possibility, so if you are “Told” you stop recording you can make that determination yourself, you can say “Yes officer but i am doing so under protest.” Or continue to record BUT be ready to be put in handcuffs, keep recording and try to keep the camera from being destroyed. If you can have someone else in the house (if you are on your property) record this just in case the cop destroys the camera and you didn’t upload it off site.
7) Do not hold your camera like a gun or in a aggressive manner, hold it close to your body so that you can keep eye contact and have a conversation, practice and have it angled up to catch both peoples faces, have good control of the camera before an officer approaches you, don’t go wildly reaching for it, you could get shot because the officer “thought” you had a gun.
8) If you are arrested do not give up your pass code (if applicable) stay silent and ask for an attorney, don’t yell out about your rights, etc. Contact an attorney and the ACLU, and don’t upload the video beforehand. If you have the video off site or whatever is the case you can use it later for a court case, their is no hurry.
- The main thing is be calm, collected, KNOW your rights, but show you know them by asking those questions, and not just a “I know my rights man!”.