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Randy Cassingham

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bullet  Don't Talk to the Cops

Some readers will be a bit puzzled why I would spread this message in my blog: "Do not, under any circumstances, be interviewed by the police without advice from a lawyer." You have a right to remain silent, and I urge you to exercise that right. Especially if you are innocent.

Yes, this pertains to U.S. citizens, and not everyone in other countries have this right. How sad for them! (More on the right in other countries.) But "Taking the Fifth [Amendment]" isn't something to be ashamed of: it's a cherished important part of our Bill of Rights.

It's something you should share with your children (grown or not). I have a particular interest in this subject because of "zero tolerance" policies in schools. Too often, children defer to authority -- as they've been taught by ...uh... the authorities -- and when the principal says "Write out what happened and sign it," that resulting confession is often given to the police. Cops certainly can't demand that a suspect write a confession without first advising the suspect of their rights ("You have the right to remain silent..."), but school officials -- typically government agents in their own right -- don't seem to have a problem obtaining confessions for use against their own students, even without bringing in their parents first (let alone a lawyer). Kids (and adults!) often don't understand that they are sealing their own fate when they comply with such outrageous demands.

But I can't explain the why of the title better than James Duane, a professor at the Regent University School of Law in Virginia Beach, Va. He received his own law degree from Harvard in 1984 (cum laude), and is a former defense attorney. I urge you to watch his talk below.

Readers know I used to be a cop. I was in fact a sheriff's deputy in California, though I was attached to the sheriff's Search & Rescue team, rather than doing "real" law enforcement. So what does a real cop think of this? Prof. Duane had a criminal investigator there when he gave this talk, and allowed him to have equal time to reply. I've attached that video, too, but here's the summary: "He's right. Don't talk us. It's not in your best interest."

Prof. Duane gave this talk on March 14, 2008, to the Regent University chapter of the Federalist Society. It's almost a half-hour long, but it's time well spent: it could save you years of incarceration should you be in the unfortunate position of being accused of a crime you did not commit. Again, watch it and have your kids watch it. Send them the URL to this page. On Twitter? Tweet this. You certainly can't expect schools to teach this vitally important lesson.

And here is the police officer's response, which is also interesting and informative:

Don't do the crime if you can't do the time. I hope this will keep you from doing time if you're ever falsely accused of doing a crime.

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61 Comments on This Entry

All comments in this blog are reviewed prior to being published. Spammers: don't waste your time. The posting criteria are simple: if a comment is worth visitors' time to read, it's approved. If not, it's not.


Posted by John, Denver on June 5, 2009:

I noticed the police officer admitted lying to suspects, by telling the suspect something is off the record when he turns off the portable tape recorder even though the interview is still being recorded.

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Yep, he freely and clearly admitted that cops lie to suspects -- and that it's allowed by the courts. If suspects lie, it's taken as evidence of guilt. The best course of action: shut up! -rc

Posted by Steve, Texas on June 6, 2009:

I'd like to remind you that talking to anyone on a legal matter (cops, prosecutors, anyone) is even more hazardous in the wake of the Scooter Libby case. As Scooter found out, even if you are cleared of the original charge, all it takes is for your memory to differ in any detail from the memories of anyone else involved to get you charged with perjury. All it takes after that is a jury that doesn't like you, or someone associated with you (at least one member of the jury openly admitted he voted Scooter guilty ONLY because he wouldn't get a chance to send Cheney or Bush to jail), and you're screwed.

Don't make any statement on any legal matter (or anything that might become a legal matter) without a full audio and video recording made under your or your lawyer's total control. Once you've made that statement, your response to any other questions should be "I've already stated for the record; I have nothing to change."

Posted by Greg - Florida on June 6, 2009:

The idea of asking for a lawyer before answering a police officer's questions is a double edged sword. If you ask for one, at trial the cop responds to the prosecution lawyer's question of, "What did he or she say," by saying, "He or She refused to talk to us or explain their actions and asked for a lawyer." As the trial jurors watch TV and all the crime programs, they immediately equate an accused person asking for a lawyer as "lawyering up"...which only guilty people do (in the shows). I think the only way to solve this is that it should be mandatory that police not question anyone unless an attorney is present.

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I suspect such testimony would be inadmissible. -rc

Posted by Adam, Oklahoma on June 6, 2009:

Is there any way to find a transcript of this, or is it hosted somewhere that's available for download? I'm on dial-up and otherwise my only hope to watch these videos is to hope my connection doesn't crap-out while they're still buffering.

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I'm not aware of any transcripts, sorry. And the professor, especially, talks really fast, so it'd be a hard job to do. What I do on videos is get them started, hit "pause", and do other things while it downloads. -rc

Posted by Panda, Missouri on June 6, 2009:

I heartily agree - Don't talk to the cops.... or the dog catcher, or the code enforcement officer.... anyone from the gov't. Your words can be used against you.

Perhaps Adam, if you can't view the videos at home, go to your library and watch them there, or ask a friend with high speed dial up to copy them to disk for you so you can have them for your own.

Posted by Andy, Dublin OH on June 6, 2009:

I'm still not sure how it would work if you got pulled over for (allegedly) speeding. The cop asks you what speed you were doing or makes a similar comment and then you ask for a lawyer? Isn't that likely to get you carted off for some jail time whilst you wait for a lawyer to arrive?

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Cops don't ask for what speed you're going: that's specific questioning about a crime, and they have to Mirandize you first. Instead, they might ask "Do you know why I pulled you over?" or similar, which isn't specific enough to trigger anything -- but may lead you to say "Sorry I was speeding officer, but I was....", which is a confession. The point is to NOT admit anything, but instead just be pleasant, provide your identification, decline any searches, and if he asks you questions about a crime (speeding is a crime), say, "If you're investigating a possible crime, I wouldn't be able to answer any questions for you without my attorney present. Am I under arrest?" -rc

Posted by Adam, Oklahoma on June 7, 2009:

What I do on videos is get them started, hit "pause", and do other things while it downloads. -rc

That's what I do as well, for the 2-3 minute Youtube shorts. On something like this it's pushing my luck to hope that my connection won't 'hiccup' for a second during the many hours it would take to load-up one of these videos, at which point I'd have to start all over again. To my knowledge Youtube doesn't allow 'save to disk' which would be my first choice since it'd allow me to use a download manager to pick up where I left off in that event.

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Another commenter had other ideas for you too. It does suck how hard it is to get broadband in rural areas -- something I've struggled with too. -rc

Posted by Bergman, Seattle WA on June 8, 2009:

Adam,

You can get plug-ins for Firefox (I don't know if any are available for Internet Explorer) that allow you to download video content from web pages, even if the page does not allow downloading. If you can play the video, the plug-in can download it.

Posted by Anthony, Netherlands on June 8, 2009:

My non-legal advice is this, if an officer stops you for speeding and then asks "why were you speeding sir?" reply with; "a month ago my wife left me for a police officer, I thought you were him trying to give her back!"

Posted by Bernard in Brisbane, Australia on June 8, 2009:

Instead, they might ask "Do you know why I pulled you over?" or similar, which isn't specific enough to trigger anything -- but may lead you to say "Sorry I was speeding officer, but I was....", which is a confession.

I had exactly that experience the one time I got pulled up when I was working in Detroit some years back. I responded "No, officer, I don't know why", and ended up having a discussion with the officer about timing on traffic lights (he thought I'd run a red) and he answered some questions I had about the differences in road rule enforcement between Australia & the US. He gave me a caution.

BTW, I drove by that intersection nearly every day, so I stopped off and watched the light cycle a day or two later - what I saw shocked me - there was no, and I mean NO delay between the light going red one way and green the other. The officer thought I'd run the red because it went green his way as I was exiting the intersection, and if the lights had had the usual two-second safety delay, he would have been right.

Posted by Mike from Dallas on June 9, 2009:

I've seen this reaction many times. It seems that people believe that only guilty people rely on their rights as innocent people "have nothing to hide." A mind game, really, as I have nothing to hide while getting dressed, but I still pull the shades for privacy. I don't remember the name, but an internet lookup will provide the court ruling that "the exercise of a right cannot be converted to a crime."

But while no cop has ever asked me how fast I was driving, they have asked if I knew what speed I was going. Almost like a lawyer asking you if you stopped beating your wife. Yes, no, maybe, no answer is correct. If you say no, it's a confession that you weren't paying attention to your speed. If you say yes, it's a confession that you knew you were speeding. You have two choices: Verbally spar with the officer, which nets you nothing, or tell him specifically that you were doing the posted speed limit (even if you were doing 45 over the limit). It's his job, and the court's, to prove otherwise so don't give him a confession to make their job easier.

Posted by Brian in Jackson, Michigan on June 9, 2009:

The first thing they usually ask me (I drive a lot at night) is "Where are you going?"

What is the suggested response to this? I have to fight every time not to reply "What's it to you?" As far as I'm concerned, unless I'm a suspect, it's none of their business, even though I'm usually just going home from work or running to the store for a soda.

Posted by Linda in Pennsylvania on June 9, 2009:

What if one is questioned as a witness, and later the police decide you are a suspect? Can answering questions as a witness, (eg."I saw a man in a blue car at the house") be used against me? (eg. "You were near the house, so you had opportunity") If I delay answering *any* police questions until I have a lawyer present, I might be giving the criminal time to escape & commit more crimes. Do I have to endanger the community in order to protect myself?

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These are good questions. I don't have the answers, but it's clearly something to think about. -rc

Posted by Caleb in Iowa on June 9, 2009:

The ACLU has a "Bust Card" freely available. Print it off and keep it in your wallet to know your rights when you're stopped by police.

Bust card link: http://www.aclu.org/FilesPDFs/dwb%20bust%20card7_04.pdf

Posted by Ian -- Harrison, NY on June 9, 2009:

One police station would ask people who were being "booked" if they had used drugs. The reason being is sometimes people have bad reactions so the cops would have some idea that the passed out "perp" had too much coke.

A judge said that the answer to that question could be used at trial. (Only, of course, if it was incriminating.)

As far as not responding to the police ("Where are you going?") one needs to know why he or she was stopped. Usually there is a basis for a stop (even if it is only DWB {Driving while Black}). Unless you have a great deal of time, annoying a police officer is usually a losing situtation. A smart answer can easily be followed by "Please step out of the car." Failure to obey can result in resisting arrest or interferring with governmental administration charges. Even if you eventualy win, it probably won't be worth it.

Posted by Bill, Vancouver Island BC Canada on June 9, 2009:

Police in Canada have a procedure, "chartering", that's quite like the Miranda warning in the US. They advise you of your rights under our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which is part of our Constitution. These are not dissimilar to their US 5th Amendment equivalent, i.e.: you don't have to answer questions, and you have guaranteed access to legal representation. That is, if it's a criminal offence that's being investigated.

In Canada, all criminal law is made at the Federal Level (by Parliament and the Senate) and may be enforced by any Peace Officer in the country whether RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police: our federal police force), provincial (Ontario and Quebec have provincial law enforcement agencies) or "local"(municipal, tribal, transit or numerous other police forces).

Of course, any law officer may enforce any other provincial or local law or ordinance in force in his jurisdiction. I have not heard, however, of an instance where a defendant in a provincial (traffic or hunting laws, for example) or municipal (like noise bylaws) trial has used, successfully or not, a defence based on not being chartered.

I can share a personal experience that taught me what can happen when you talk to the police. Many moons ago, while stopping for a signal just turned red, my brake pedal went to the floor without any warning. I had slowed down quite a bit by the time I hit the vehicle ahead but it still did a bit of damage.

The police officer who attended, after ensuring that nobody was injured, hopped into the driver's seat of my car and directed a couple of us to push it off to the side of the road. He then filled out the accident report as I answered each question as honestly as I can.

So I'm sitting in court sometime later, finding myself charged with "Following too Closely" and "Operating an Unsafe Vehicle". I thought that I should have no problem straightening this out as I sat listening to the officer start to testify. In response to a query from the prosecutor about the reason the charge had been laid, the cop stated that I had admitted to him that I knew the brakes were defective. And the Crown rested.

Jumping at the opportunity to cross examine the officer, I asked him exactly when I made this confession. He responded that when he got in to move the car I had told him that I knew that the brakes didn't work. What?

I was completely flabbergasted, trying to think what he might be referring to; I didn't expect a respectable police officer to lie to a Judge so I assumed it had to be an innocent mistake that I could straighten out -- once I knew what it was.

Then I recalled that when we were pushing the car, I had quipped: "Watch the brakes, they don't seem to be working too good". Some confession that was! Obviously a simple satement of a self-evident fact. But it was all he needed; anything else I had said could be (and was) ignored and used against me.

I had neither the time, togetherness nor instant verbal skills to put my statement in context to counter the impression that had been carefully crafted. I must have just stuttered and stammered until the Judge impatiently asked if I had any more questions for the witness. Of course I didn't. Where could I start?

Don't talk to the cops. Justice and law enforcement aren't the same thing.

Posted by Frank, DeKalb, IL on June 9, 2009:

This is all so important for the public to understand. I remember watching police dramas on television with my friends after our first year criminal law and procedure classes; and invariably, when the suspect was in the "interview" room and the cops started asking questions, we would yell at the TV screen "Don't say anything!!! Ask for an attorney!!!"

They almost never do, and, just like in real life, nearly everyone who gets pulled in gets convicted.

The odd corollary is that most people unfamiliar with the justice system seem to think most criminals go free because of these "technicalities" -- which are, in fact, our bedrock, foundational law set up by the Founders of our country.

Posted by Karl, Los Altos, CA on June 9, 2009:

I'm a night owl. I've had a couple of cases where I've been out walking along the edge of the street at 2am or so, and a police officer has decided to pull over and chat. There's no apparent crime involved, so does that make it safe to answer honestly about what I'm doing? (I haven't had any bad experiences as a result of doing so -- yet.)

In the first instance, I was walking past some neighborhood houses trying to identify the source of some music that had been bothering me. In the second instance, I'd been doing multiple tasks, including returning an item to the library -- it would have been overdue the next morning -- but when he asked me if I was just out for a walk, I answered affirmatively, as my daily exercise walk was another of my reasons. He also asked if we'd ever talked before -- I wasn't sure, since I didn't remember much about the officer from the first instance. I later realized that any answer other than "no" might be an indication of having had prior trouble with the police....

Posted by Paul, Port Washington, NY on June 10, 2009:

My sister, as a New Yorker was visiting LA and doing what all New Yorkers do, she walked. Apparently it appears to be illegal to be a pedestrian in LA. She was "pulled over" and asked where her car was sometimes by 2 different cops on one trip.

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It's not illegal to be a pedestrian in LA. It's illegal to be a New Yorker there.... -rc

Posted by Tony In Japan on June 10, 2009:

Regarding the "illegal to be a pedestrian in LA" experience, I remember that being mentioned in an episode of "Remington Steele" in regard to the city of Beverly Hills some decades ago.

This video is timely for me as the Japanese Press are currently up in arms about a man released from prison eighteen years after being found guilty of murder, where the police apparently ignored alibi evidence because they already had a DNA sample that matched (i.e one in several hundred people probability, due to the immaturity of the technology back then.) Once his defence team got a more accurate DNA comparison done recently, it became clear he was innocent.

And they still don't record all interrogations here, because as the Justice Ministry claimed, it might make suspects more reluctant to confess.

Posted by Paul Dwyler, New York, NY on June 10, 2009:

There's an irony here. On the one hand, we've been taught that the police are here to protect us. But if you're a suspect in a crime, they are potentially your worst enemy.

Posted by Dave, Streetsboro,Oh on June 12, 2009:

Up front, I've been a police officer for 25 years.

This all smacks of paranoia to me. The police are out to get you all!!! Statements he makes and you (Randy) made are examples of what you're accusing the police of. Examples: You state he has a "real cop" there and allowed him equal time to reply. Sounds like a rebuttal opportunity. No, he's finishing up his time as a cop and even stated he may become a defense attorney. He wasn't looking to rebut, just continue to pile on. The cop agreed he never let anyone off the hook because of an interview when the first speaker asked if he ever did, then when he speaks, stated he had. And his statement about overtime pay also smacks of insincerity (or no personal life). I often want to get out of the station and home as quick as possible. Contrary to many's apparent belief, we do have a personal life and strive to keep them separate. We aren't stacked up in a closet when we're off duty and pulled out when it's time for our next shift to start.

The first speaker claims than one cannot infer a shooting because of "a gangland type slaying", but last time I checked, not many people were being gangland slayed with the weapon of choice being a pair of pruning shears. I could go on, but I just finished my overnight shift, and choose not to listen again to this wide brush being run across Law Enforcement.

It is unfortunate some people end up in jail for crimes they did not commit, sometimes (rarely) because of statements they gave. I note the two best cases he had to offer both involved mentally challenged individuals. It's also unfortunate people go to jail for crimes they did not commit without making any statements. It happens both ways and it grieves me as much or more than it does you because I am part of the system (still). I'm very careful and will err on the side of caution whenever I'm dealing with people's liberty.

May the majority of people NOT take his advise because 1) It does help us attain GOOD confessions, often in cases we may have not solved otherwise, and a criminal getting caught for his crime is one of the major reasons we're out there. 2) While it will make the local attorneys wildly happy, are you going to pay for an attorney every time a cop wants to ask you a question? 3) People can be found to not be involved more quickly if they co-operate. 3) I would find my job to be much less enjoyable if everyone I attempted to speak to chose not to be sociable (Where do you you draw the line?) and 4) The extra time it would take to speak to all involved parties would allow the criminal added time to continue commiting his crime of choice and just where is the manpower and money coming from to deal with all the unco-operative people? I'd hate to live in a community where no one wanted to help the police. They exist and the only time a person wants to help is when they're the victim, then they become bitter when the crime can't be solved because no one else comes forward, "nobody saw nuthin'" even though a crowd was present.

I'm done ranting, I guess this is where I'm supposed to tell you to cancel my subscription, but I do enjoy your column too much. This is the first time I've ever adamantly disagreed with your opinion, and I've been a subscriber for a long time. I apologize for my horrific spelling, but it is past my bedtime (10:00am :-p)

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Yes, there's definitely some paranoia here. But just because people are paranoid (to adopt a phrase) doesn't mean you're not out to get them. There are far too many people imprisoned each year who are completely innocent, and that's a national tragedy. And you know cops and prosecutors are to blame for the vast majority of these cases. Not all the cops out there are as good as you sound, so do you have to suffer a bit because of them? Yep. So continue to work to clean up your profession's image (significant strides have been made, but not enough!), and the paranoia will eventually go away if you're successful.

And speaking of paranoia, Dave? Remember how I started this: "Especially if you're innocent." To the guilty I said "Don't do the crime if you can't do the time." In other words, you have to see the advice in the light of what I'm talking about. -rc

Posted by Ian, NY on June 12, 2009:

The professor is right. And the Dave who does not like the comment on overtime is the only one in his profession. In the towns and villages in Westchester County NY the highest paid public employees are police officers based upon overtime. A minor digression. For many years juries in felony cases had to be sequested (i.e. put into a hotel overnight). Can you guess who lobbied very hard to keep this? Court officiers who earned a great deal of overtime.

Miranda warnings only kick in when you are "under arrest" and they rarely kick in in traffic stops. Think about all the information gathered in a DWI stop. No miranda warnings at the stop (usually not until the handcuffs are on) yet all the information is generally admissible on the State's case.

At least in Westchester, the object of a police and district attorney investigation is to prove someone committed the crime. It does not have to be the actual guilty party. As long as the crime is cleared and a conviction gotten (hey if he or she did not do this crime, they probably did something else so it evens out) that is a good days work.

Yeah and cops lie (ever hear the term "test a lie") But telling a "perp" that he can leave once he completes a statement or (as I have seen) telling someone who was arrested with a co-perp like a girl friend or close relative, if you tell us what happend we will let the other person go. There is no rule against that. (And they then charge the other person as well.)

Dave does not have to worry however. Many many people with stuff (usually weapons or controlled substances) in their car will consent to a search of the car. In response to the lawyer's question "Did you consent?" The answer is "Do I look so stupid that I would agree to a search knowing a kilo of coke was in the trunk?" Guess what the answer is to that question.

People will talk to the police for many reasons. Some of which were set out in the second video and some cops are good at what they do. (Now, says the officer, if you have drugs in the car and you tell me, you can go home tonight, but if I find them after a search it will not go well for you.) Dave does not have to worry.

Posted by Harold, Utah on June 12, 2009:

Unfortunately, there can be severely negative consequences for following Prof. Duane's advice. I recently had an unpleasant encounter with the police: a crime had been witnessed in my neighborhood, and I (vaguely) matched the description of the perpetrator. I had been home alone all evening, and hence had no alibi and no one to vouch for me.

While I was aware that there were good reasons to decline to answer the officers' questions, my alternative was to be taken in for questioning. Since it was nearly midnight, I would likely have spent the night in jail had I insisted on speaking with a lawyer. I chose, under the circumstances, to be as polite and cooperative as possible.

Sometimes, none of our choices are entirely good. In such situations, we have to trust our best judgment and just hope things work out.

(P.S. When they got a more detailed description, I was exonerated - but of course nobody told that to my neighbors.)

Posted by Shanna, Tomball, TX on June 12, 2009:

I grew up in a "law enforcement home". My father was a probation officer for over 30 years and also went to law school and his best friend is a police officer and investigator for the DA's office. I have several friends now who are officers for different agencies.

I have had contact on multiple occasions with police officers and I have always come out the better for being honest and cooperative. This includes things of relatively minor issues to those of a more serious nature. 99.9% of officers are not trying to "get anyone just to get someone" but are really trying to get the right person.

I believe many people get themselves into trouble because they are trying to guess ahead of where they think officers are trying to go with questions instead of just answering honestly and they confuse themselves.

Posted by Dan, CA on June 13, 2009:

After having several federal agents in my house, without a search warrant, even after the gent they were "out to get" had been taken away (and on false charges, but that's another story as he was home later that afternoon), I still say that I know several great Peace Officers and a few bad cops. Dave "sounds" like a great one, but I've also known many that were the nicest people on earth until several years on the job really got to them. When any cop, deputy or other officer deals with 95% BAD, they tend to believe that ALL people are that way. It's not good by any means, but I understand....

Posted by Michael, Puerto Rico on June 13, 2009:

I watched the videos and they are very enlightening. I may add that some cops think they are doing the right thing when obtaining "confessions" out of people and that is where the trouble begins. Innocence is something that can be lost by being negligent and people with bad intentions know that.

Posted by Kathie, Maryland on June 13, 2009:

I too know both "good" and "not so good" Peace Officers. They are people after all...and do represent a pool of our population!

I think more than anything the issues are today that the laws have changed to give authorities almost absolute control over citizens should it be deemed "necessary". That scares me to the core--absolute authority corrupts absolutely, and all that.

I do not envy those in law enforcement: they have one of the toughest jobs out there and I applaud those of them that are in there and do _not_ lose their humanity and compassion along the way. Its one of those fields where it is easy to do so, seeing as they so often do, the basest side of humanity so often. I do not wish to make their job harder, but I will exercise my rights and protect my self--and if it pisses them off I apologize in advance, but I am not going to put myself at risk under any circumstances. I don't understand why it is that if I exercise my rights as a US citizen to have legal representation and to stand on the Fifth Amendment, there is a perception of guilt. Generally when being interviewed by the police something has happened that is traumatic and upsetting. Being forced to talk in those circumstances means one is bound to make errors and in accuracies that later can cost dearly. The appearance of guilt does not mean one is guilty, no does being nervous dealing with investigating officers mean one has committed a crime.

The laws and court systems are a convoluted, twisted mass of confusion, which attorneys and other officers of the court spend years learning and interpreting, applying to individual situations as they arise. Expecting a lay-person to be prepared in a situation like that is setting them up for trouble.

For my part, no matter what, I take the fifth and my phone call. And my husband and children will do the same.

Posted by Alan, Libby MT on June 13, 2009:

How many times have people been asked, "Do you have any weapons in the vehicle?" Well of course you do. You have a tire-iron or other such things. OK, that's not what he means but in many states having a gun is just as legal as a tire-iron. He has no business asking such questions unless someone saw ME running from a crime scene just minutes before. Of course if that were the case he would already have his gun pointed at me. Being that cops can and do lie to you, my first response to an improper question is: "Officer. Do you plan to violate my constitutional rights?" He of course will lie. I always do my best to never give the cops any reason to stop me when I'm driving. I don't speed, I keep all the lights working (and keep spares, just in case), and always give others the right of way. I always use my turn signals when changing lanes or making a turn. So if a cop stops me, it had better be for a damn good reason. I moved out of big cities for good because of of rampant crime and corrupt cops. Who needs to live like that. I carry a copy of our Constitution and Bill of Rights just in case some cop can't remember just who he works for. Oh, and I am of course very kind to them because they may have had a bad day and I don't want them to take it out on me. Also I try to avoid even saying the word lawyer, as they might think that is a threat. Have a nice day officer.

Posted by Ed, L.A. (Lower Alabama) on June 13, 2009:

As a police officer for almost 20 years I can only concur with the advice of the experts here. It's quite similar to a prisoner of war: Name, rank and serial number.

While under some circumstances you are not even required to identify yourself to a police officer and may simply walk away, it may not be the wisest course. Here is my advice:

Be polite but firm. Offer only your name and residence. Unless you are being charged with an offense (or are driving) you are not required to provide your birth date, address or I.D. You cannot be detained or removed to the police station without cause.

Never give permission to search your person, vehicle or possessions. The officer may 'frisk' you. Do not resist. Do not give permission to go into your pockets or purse or bag. (Let the officer keep the bag for safety but not look into it.)

Tell the officer you wish to cooperate but that you cannot speak without an attorney present. Ask to leave. If you are detained ask why. Be polite but be persistent.

Tell the officer you intend to walk or drive away. Do not physically resist if stopped. Make it clear you are not remaining willingly. If you are in the right you may be inconvenienced but you won't be incarcerated.

Posted by Karl, Los Angeles, CA on June 13, 2009:

I got to deal with the aftermath when someone answered the questions police officers asked him.

One of my "adopted nephews" (I've been a friend of his family since before he was born) was accused of having molested his sister. The charge was made by his sister to her school counselor, and may have been made to get out of trouble she was in. He was removed from school, taken to the police station, and interviewed for several hours without his parents or an advocate present. After his blood sugar dropped low enough, and after being told he could go home if he told the police what they wanted to know, he made a statement.

Then he was arrested, and finally, read his rights.

He was released to his parents the same day, but under a court order that barred him from being under the same roof with his sister. So he, and his father and brother, spent the next few nights at my house. Although father and brother went home after a few days, the kid would live with me for the next couple of years.

Over the next few months, this would be The Incredible Shrinking Case. The charges were reduced from rape to misdemeanor battery. The sister recanted her claim, and in the end, the only evidence against the kid was his own statement made to the police.

I'll repeat that. The only evidence against him was his own statement.

Eventually, the lawyer worked out "Deferred Entry of Judgment" deal -- the kid is on probation. He keeps his nose clean, and doesn't cause any trouble for his probation officer, and the whole thing goes away.

He did, and it (presumably) did. (Though how well information can be sealed away in this day and age remains to be seen.)

In any event, he missed the last two months of the school year where he had been going at the time. He transferred to a school near my home while he was living with me, and was going to transfer back to a school near his own home when he moved back, but that school dropped the ball and let it stay dropped until he was over age 18. He has dropped out, and will eventually pursue his GED.

I hired a lawyer, since none of us had any faith in the public defender's office. That was $3500 out of my pocket. For an additional $500, I hired a forensic psychologist to interview the kid for an hour and write a report declaring him "Not A Predator".

And of course, there was time off work for any number of court visits while deals and other arrangements were made, and stress and general disruption all around.

So, to any officers of the law who are upset because people are being advised not to say anything to you, and not to make your life any easier -- Give me my $4000 back, and then I'll think about it.

Promise, in writing, in an iron-clad contract, that you'll cover any expenses that result from my cooperation, and maybe my lawyer will let me talk to you. (Oh, yes, the lawyer will be one of the expenses.)

But in the mean time, since you're the one holding all the cards, you can go play with yourself.

Posted by steve olathe, ks on June 13, 2009:

The Kansas City Flying Disc Club has a great relationship with city governments all around the area, including parks folks and police. We design, maintain (except routine mowing etc), and clean the park areas where we have Disc Golf courses. We've gotten awards for the volunteer efforts we, as a club, put out. Where disc golf courses go in, at least in the KC area, crime goes down.

But, one particular county Park Ranger staff is a little too assertive. Yes, alcohol is banned in the park. Yes, "other" things are banned there and elsewhere. The Club does its best to inform members and non-members to NOT HAVE ALCOHOL IN THAT PARK. Some people ignore that advice, and have been busted.

But, the Rangers seem to think that ALL disc golfers are boozers and dopeheads, and that they have the right to search any disc golfer and their vehicles at any time.

I don't think so.

Besides, it's possibly the least favorite course in the area, for most of the more serious players at least.

Posted by Paul, Port Washington, NY on June 13, 2009:

Again, ask if you are free to leave. If the cop says you are, leave. If you are not free to leave, you are UNDER ARREST already.

Posted by Mike from Iowa on June 13, 2009:

I delivered motorhomes for many years and have long hair and a beard. I have been stopped many times, I never talk to the officer, just hand him my papers and sit quietly. Out of all the times I have been stopped there have been no tickets for anything, they just wanted to bug the guy with the long hair. I no longer have any respect for the cops....

Posted by Eron in Vacaville, CA on June 14, 2009:

Many years ago, a friend of mine was eating lunch in his car, a red mustang, at a vista point near the industrial park where we work. He was quite surprised when officers pulled right to his car, and asked him to get out of the vehicle, and told him there had just been a robbery, and that his car matched the description of the vehicle, "would you mind if we searched your vehicle?" Having nothing to hide, he allowed them. His legally registered (and unloaded) Desert Eagle .50 cal handgun, in its case, and in the hatchback storage of his mustang (mustangs in thet series had no trunks) was declared a concealed weapon, and he was arrested. As it turns out, a white guy, in a red mustang, did not fit the description at all, it was a black male in a black sports car they were looking for. The charge of concealed weapon was not dropped (even though it was secured, and stowed, since it was not in a trunk, the driver "has access to it"), and even though it was legally registered, he had to "sell" the weapon to his brother, in order for the court to release the weapon (to his brother). I imagine that nowadays the weapon would never be released, for reasons not related to this discussion (gun paranoia and efforts to remove all firearms from the hands of the public).

And since I am sure there are those that would read this and ask why he had his handgun in the back of the car in the first place (and those that would would probably assume he was guilty of something just for having a gun, let alone a gun in his car), he was planning on going to the local pistol range after work.

The moral of the story, don't talk to cops, and don't allow them to search you, or your vehicle, or home, without a warrant.

Posted by Sharon, Calgary, AB Canada on June 14, 2009:

Like the fellow who delivered motorhomes and "looked like a criminal" (not my definition but unfortunately others) my brother and my son have both been stopped my the police several times. Instead of DWB (Driving while Black) it is WWS or DWS (Walking/Driving while Scruffy). One night my brother had been at a party at an acquaintance's and had just left a short while before when the police stopped by and said they were looking for a Pat and Dave in connection with some investigation. Someone piped, Oh they just left in a blue van. Within minutes, my brother (Patrick) was stopped with his friend (David) and their girlfriends. They experienced the whole get out slowly one at a time, hands behind your head, walk slowly backwards to us, with multiple guns pointed at them at the time, they heard the cocking of the guns. After interrogation it was determined the "only crime they had committed" was their choice of style. Profiling at its finest.

Unfortunately, not all cops are good. My son's long-time friend is the son of a cop. His father once beat him so hard as a 17 year old that he broke two of the kids ribs. What did the kid do to prompt this beating? - he pierced his ears. Yes, police are human and prone to all the faults that all other humans are prone to including bias and prejudice.

I agree don't talk without a lawyer unless you are the victim of the crime and even then tread softly.

Posted by John in Phoenix, AZ on June 14, 2009:

From my interaction with law enforecement both professionally and personally and Randy's rants on ZT, when my teenagers started driving I was concerned about their reaction to a traffic stop. A friend recommended "BUSTED: The Citizens Guide to Surviving Police Encounters" video from FlexYourRights.org.

I ordered and reviewed the video then had my wife and children watch the movie. We discussed the content at dinner and worked out a response to the events shown in the video. Mind you I do not generally agree with the positions the ACLU takes on many cases but when they do good work we need to recognize their effort. This video is a great way to educate you and your family on how to deal with the confrontations that will occur.

Remember, the job of the police and the prosecution is to assign guilt and obtain a conviction. Most of the time they get it right but they personally have no liability in convicting the wrong person.

Posted by Paul, Port Washington, NY on June 14, 2009:

Here's a funny one. 2 weeks ago my motorcycle was stolen from the service lane of the LIE. It wasn't particularly valuable but it was my son's basic transportation and would be missed. He broke down on the highway at midnight, called me and we left the bike there until the next day when we could borrow a truck to pick it up. When we went to get it, it was gone so we went to the local PD which was one of those North Shore jurisdictions where the biggest crime is a missing cat.

I told the desk Sargent what had happened and she walked back to the squad room and asked if anyone had seen the biked parked there overnight. I over heard the conversation where one of the cops said indignantly "That wasn't stolen, I saw them picking it up with a trailer this morning at 9:3......" and he stopped in mid syllable when he realized he witnessed the actual thieves taking the bike.

I played deaf when he brought me in to an interrogation room, pretending that I hadn't over-heard him. I thought he was going to arrest me on insurance fraud, that is until I told him I didn't have any theft insurance (and confirmed that he was both a putz and a witness to the actual thieves taking it).

I happen to be a defense attorney and recommend to my clients (and my kids) that they keep a little stick recorder in their shirt pocket. If they get pulled over, hit record, state the time and date and wait for the officer to come to your window. This way if you're ever stopped you have it on tape. My son was inspired once and did this (I always tell them to preserve evidence) with his little digital camera and it turned out to be critical evidence that resulted in a dismissed harassment charge against his cousin.

A cop's job is to clear a complaint with an arrest. (anyone's). They do not get promoted for making peace, they get promoted and get those little gold shields which translates to pay raises, for making more arrests than the other cops in their department.

Posted by Bergman, Seattle WA on June 15, 2009:

Paul,

Unfortunately, that stick recorder advice may not be legal in all jurisdictions. In some places, my location for one, doing so is a felony unless the officer consents to the recording before it is switched on.

---

That's fairly ludicrous, since surely the police have no qualms about doing it. Time to change the law! -rc

Posted by michael, plantsville ct on June 15, 2009:

When I was 20 years old I had long hair. One time I was in my truck and while waiting at a red light was read ended. The driver, an older man, was very upset when I approached his vehicle to ask if he was okay, and after getting out of his car starting taking swings at me knocking my glasses off.

When a cop finally arrived the guy started yelling that I attacked him! So the cop looks at me and says "what's this about assault?". As he starts to reach for me, I assume to take me into custody, some guy comes running up and says "I saw the whole thing officer can we talk?". Turns out the witness was an off duty state trouper who told the cop what 'really happened'. The cop later tells me that without the witness, I would have been arrested for assault based solely on the guy's claim and, oh yeah, his wife's nodding agreement. Never mind the guy was so drunk that not only did HE REAR END ME, but he peed his pants too.

I didn't even get a chance to SAY ANYTHING and I was guilty.

Posted by Jenny, Ohio on June 15, 2009:

My husband was charged and convicted of a hit and run years ago. It is such a ludicrous story. He was in a parking lot and a cart was rolling fast and hit a car and dented it. He was nearby, but couldn't stop the cart - he'd driven over to see if he could stop it, not sure why he'd think he could. Anyway, someone saw him there and took his license plate and called the police. So we get a call. He goes down to the station to "straighten things out." Yeah right. So the plate is only partial, but we don't find that out until the trial. By going down to the station he placed himself at the crime scene (truly just an accident, but the car owner wanted someone to pay besides themselves if you KWIM.) He took it to court and everyone lied, the witness, the officer (who said that he read him his rights but never did.) So he was convicted and our insurance paid. We ended up on high risk insurance for several years, so it cost us a good bit of money, even though our lawyer was my cousin and didn't charge us.

Looking back, we learned a good lesson. When other things have come up we now know to never, ever talk to the police, no matter how innocent you are. Just don't. And it has defused a couple of situations that we didn't talk. My brother is a lawyer now and I always call him if something looks like it might become an issue, like one time when my then 10 and 8 yo sons got into fight and the mom tried to file assault charges.

Posted by bandit, albuquerque on June 15, 2009:

The drug laws have, sadly, forced me to not trust *any* cop I meet, unless I already know them as an honest person - and even then I don't piss them off....

The logic is fairly simple:

The two things cops fear the most are domestic calls and traffic stops. Domestic calls because it is guaranteed that everybody will act in a non-linear manner (the beaten spouse will attack the cop).

Traffic stops because, even with all of the info from the license plate and the various tricks, there is some probability that the cop will end up dead.

This outcome has a low probability (per traffic stops), but the consequences are severe. The cop's life is ruined (even if just badly wounded), their family severely hurt, etc.

From the other side, I, as a citizen, do not know if the cop I encounter is a corrupt or good cop. The cops will admit between 5% and 10% are corrupt.

If the cop is corrupt, he can plant drugs on me because it looks good. I have *no* defense against this. None. Nada.

It's even worse in some places where the cops have deliberately and systematically stopping drivers to "search for drugs", finding money, and keeping it. They let you sign a form where you promise not to sue them for the money. You had better sign, because they could then "find" drugs on you.

Please note this is not paranoia. NPR has had several stories on exactly this practice in Texas and major parts of the south. Also, look up "Tulia, Texas", and "Rampart Division" in Los Angeles.

So the cop "finds" drugs on me. Depending on where I am (most places), I am guaranteed to be found a felon, and thrown into prison for many years or the rest of my life (possession of a single joint is *life* in Oklahoma).

My life is ruined, my family destroyed and probably end up on the street, etc.

In the case of the cop doing a traffic stop, it is a job hazard. Encountering a corrupt cop should not be a hazard of being a law-abiding citizen.

Look at www.LEAP.cc - there are a fair number of cops, many high ranking, who want an end of the drug war.

And ... I *should* be the target audience for cheering the cops! I am a middle-aged, honest, law-abiding citizen. My professional career has included working on a police message switcher. *Every* time a cop has done a traffic stop since 1993 in California and Oregon, and called in the car or drivers license, the query has gone thru *my* code. *I* wrote that part of the code, as well as other parts of the system.

That said, there are times I have been glad to be a white male.

This is in addition to other horror stories like have been posted here. I have known several folks who have been falsely convicted - where the evidence is *obviously* false or points to another.

Posted by Tom - Minneapolis on June 16, 2009:

Just a comment on some thoughts expressed here regarding traffic stops and questioning by police. As a retired officer, I can say that no Miranda Warning is needed to ask questions during a traffic stop if these questions simply pertain to speeding.

The traffic stop is "presumptively temporary and brief" and as a result, non-custodial, and questions asked by the officer are not considered custodial interrogations. Officers may ask you if you know how fast you were going and use your answer against you.

Remember, you are not in custody when stopped for a traffic stop and no Miranda Warning is needed.

---

Thanks, Tom, for helping to clear that up. -rc

Posted by Mat in Tulsa on June 19, 2009:

Two words I am surprised I have not seen yet in this discussion: Richard Jewell.

The man was doing his job as a private security guard, spotted a suspicious package and alerted law enforcement. The FBI decided he would be a convenient patsy and tried to railroad him. They almost succeeded. Their 'reasoning'? He spotted it, he probably planted it. Brilliant.

I believe it's bad luck to antagonize someone that wears a gun and Kevlar vest to work. I have also been mistreated by a uniformed cop, just once, but that was enough. Maybe he was having a bad day. It doesn't matter. That experience colors every encounter I have with law enforcement, including a casual hello. I realize most of the guys in that job description are good people at heart but it just takes one bad experience to poison that well. And I also realize that having to deal with the dregs of society for 40 hours a week can ruin your opinion of mankind. That shouldn't be permission to assume everybody is evil and must be punished.

---

For more on Jewell, see Wikipedia. Jewell was completely exonerated and won several lawsuits/settlements, but surely the stress over his being a suspect in the bombing contributed to his early death at 44. -rc

Posted by Andara - Long Beach, CA on June 19, 2009:

For anyone and everyone who thinks that the "don't talk to cops and don't consent to any form of search" contingent are overly paranoid, I have two things to say.

JonBenet Ramsey and Stephanie Crowe.

In both of those cases, the officers on the scene were so certain that they knew who had done it, that they harassed and traumatized the families of the victims, and in the Ramsey case very possibly sabotaged any hope of finding the actual perpetrator.

You can be polite without giving them ammunition that will be used against you.

Posted by Louie, Georgia on June 30, 2009:

@Andara: The Ramsey family was not harassed. The police department in that case had to resort to "inviting" them to come for questioning, and at that, their lawyers demanded a list of questions to be asked in advance. Do you think that if your daughter was found dead in your own basement in a reasonably secure house, with a note that included information that was known only to the immediate family, that you would be "invited" to come answer questions? And be permitted to decline numerous times? And be permitted to demand to know what questions would be asked?

@Minneapolis Tom: A police stop IS an arrest and custody. If you think otherwise, just try to drive off. You will be charged with "resisting arrest and flight from custody." i have seen people charged with it, and you are disingenuous if you claim otherwise. You are also wrong about the questions: they are specific interrogations related to a crime or suspicion of committing a crime. Any time an answer given to a cop can be used against you in a court of law, it is part of an interrogation.

@RandyC: You suspect that an officer testifying to your "willingness to cooperate" would be inadmissible, but it is used in nearly every court in this country. It absolutely has an enormous effect on the convictions and the time given when convicted. I've sat in a courtroom a few times as an observer, and saw it myself. I have seen prosecutors urge the juries and judges to consider the defendant's cooperation with the police or lack of it, actually, to be used as part of their deliberations. I have heard a prosecutor urge a jury with these words: "Why would he have refused to talk to the police and demand an attorney if he WASN'T guilty of the charges?" The defense naturally objected, and was quickly overruled. He was found guilty, and the judge cited the man's refusal to "voluntarily cooperate" as evidence of his unwillingness to accept responsibility for his crimes. Judge may have been wrong, but unless that defendant had or has thousands of dollars to pay for an appeal, who is going to know? Public defenders either don't do appeals, or do them so badly to be a waste of time.

Problem is, justice is only for those who have the money to hire the right attorneys. There are numerous studies of the measurable gross disparity in conviction and sentencing based solely on the defendant's financial status, even when race is completely removed form the equations. In fact, one study even said that race was NOT a reliable factor, when the money aspect was included. They only reason race was a factor was because the minorities just also happened to be the overwhelmingly poorer defendants. The problem is that the prosecution has unlimited financial and legal resources to prosecute, and the public defender is given a few hundred dollars.

And I also take exception to the whole DWB attitude. Black people who do NOT look like thugs or drug dealers aren't pulled over any more than anyone else. The thing should be DWLLC - Driving While Looking Like a Criminal. Don't misunderstand: I don't support suspicion based on looks alone, but I've known cops who readily admit that they are most likely to stop someone based on the look of the person exclusive of his race. In other words, the white guy in the Camaro with fully tinted windows will get pulled over before the black guy in a Taurus without tint.

Posted by Greg - Florida on June 30, 2009:

And in light of this overwhelming content that convictions are gained in this abusive, albeit illegal, manner, we use the conviction data to deny qualified people employment and, thus, an honest livelihood. As long as society, read it as a jury, allows this abuse of its citizens, they deserve the outcome. When we wrongly convict, we get wrong as a result. I think justice is about how to rectify a wrong, not how to perpetuate it.

Sadly, I now understand the reason some rap songs contain "cop killer" lyrics and why the songs include them as often as they do.

It's one thing to actually be guilty of committing a crime, it's quite another to be convicted of a crime because you exercised your constitutional right to council. A case should be immediately dismissed and a mistrial called when one's exercise of a constitutional right is exposed because it has significant prejudicial effect--just like the prosecution wants.

Posted by Ian Harrison on June 30, 2009:

In case Louie from Georgia or anyone else is interested in what the Supreme Court Said in Doyle v. Ohio, 426 U.S. 610, 96 S.Ct. 2240, 49 L.Ed.2d 91 (1976).

In Doyle, the Court held that the due process clause of the fourteenth amendment prohibits impeachment on the basis of a defendant's silence following Miranda warnings. The case involved two defendants who made no post-arrest statements about their involvement in the crime. Both defendants in Doyle testified at trial that they had been framed. On cross-examination the prosecutor asked the defendants why they had not told the frameup story to the police upon their arrest. The court considered this prosecutorial practice fundamentally unfair in the face of the accused's right to remain silent. this is a link to the decision: http://supreme.justia.com/us/426/610/case.html

As a footnote, exercising your right to be silent is not the same as talking and then exercising your right or exercising your right and then talking. Under certain circumstances, those items may be commented on.

As for DWB - just speak to the children (usually male children) of well off African Americans who let these children drive their Mercedes.

Posted by Bergman, Seattle WA on June 30, 2009:

Louie Wrote:
> He was found guilty, and the judge cited the man's refusal
> to "voluntarily cooperate" as evidence of his unwillingness
> to accept responsibility for his crimes.

The problem with this, is that if you are, in fact, innocent of the crime, then why should you show remorse for it? For that matter, if you visibly act guilty on the stand, it would tend to convict you, not the other way around.

---

Your reaction is logical, but logic is out the window when an innocent person is convicted. Indeed the "lack of remorse" is a problem, and how can one feel remorse for something they didn't do? Quite the Catch-22. -rc

Posted by Karen - Nebraska on July 3, 2009:

Your article about not talking to the police is a great idea and I agree with most of the points you made. There is one big exception to this rule - that is when approached by a child services worker. Should you exercise your right to remain silent then you will find yourself in the middle of a nightmare. Your child(ren) gone, social workers deciding your ability to parent and, an adventure through 'the system'.

---

I actually can't think of a better time to use a lawyer, either. -rc

Posted by Panda, Missouri on July 3, 2009:

I heartily disagree with Karen who says that not talking with child services workers will land you in the middle of a nightmare.

Karen, if you talk with them, they can and will do everything that the police would do during an investigation. They are a government worker, and as such you do not have to talk with them. Smile sweetly and simply say "I'm sorry, but my attorney won't let me talk with you without him/her being present." Refer them to your attorney pronto.

If you have any questions about the dirty tactics that CPS workers use, please view the site: http://www.nfpcar.org/References/DirtyTricks.htm - and you should also read the page I wrote about "The Importance of Miranda" at http://www.nfpcar.org/eBook/MirandaA.htm

This is an excerpt from the page referred to above:

I know many social workers and others believe there is an exemption of the warrant requirement in child abuse investigations. But the Ninth Circuit Court has ruled in Calabretta v. Floyd that as a general rule, unreasonable searches and seizures are banned and it presumes that all warrantless searches are unreasonable. The only exemptions for not getting a warrant (aside from voluntarily agreeing to a search) during the course of an investigation for child abuse are twofold:

1. That the social worker has in his or her possession evidence that would establish probable cause, and

2. There are exigent circumstances (meaning there is an emergency) threatening the health or welfare of the child.

Remember, the Constitution has the Bill of Rights in it for a reason. Use it or lose it, it's your choice. The more people lay down and accept government intrusions into every corner of their lives, the more we become like doormats and are about as useful.

"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude greater than the animating contest for freedom, go home from us in peace. We seek not your counsel, nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you; May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." ~ Samuel Adams

Posted by Vikor, Boron, CA on July 28, 2009:

Last Oct 2008 I was pulled over and cited for going "too slow", by the Edwards AFB Security Policeman. I tried to explain what the law said but she would not hear of it. At the trial the Judge called the Law Enforcement Airman and Federal Prosecuter incompetent. Earlier this month I was stopped by a Edwards AFB Security Policeman for going too slow in a construction zone. I once again explained that many of the traffic control signs were missing and I was abiding by the last speed limit sign I has passed. He wanted to just argue so I said let me go or give me a ticket. He let me go and when I complained about his behavior he lied as to why he stopped me and what the conversation was about. I now have my car wired to record all of my law enforcement traffic stops for my own protection. Why are there just enough Barney Fifes in this world to screw up the public's view of "Police competency"?

Posted by Karl, Los Altos, CA on September 22, 2009:

Vikor mentions having wired the car to record any traffic stops. I think that this is an excellent idea in theory, but I've heard of people being arrested on the spot as soon as the cops discovered that a tape recorder was running. Is it legal to record the conversation secretly? Legal only if you announce it to the officer first? Or just plain illegal? If you do inform the officer that the conversation is being recorded, and he requests (or demands) that you not do so, are you required to comply?

---

Laws vary by state, but I think that one should be able to record anything in or near your car. Certainly the police do that! -rc

Posted by Ken, Toledo on December 18, 2009:

In the event you are taken in to custody while in possession of a legally-carried firearm or other weapon, what is the safest way to advise the arresting officer of that fact and turn over to them?

---

I hope an active-duty cop will weigh in on this, but assuming you're not being wrestled to the ground, what I would do is hold my hands out to plain view, make eye contact with the officer, and say "I have a licensed pistol on my right hip" (or wherever), and then don't move until s/he gives you instructions. I had a similar thing happen: someone gave me a BB gun, back in the days when they were made to look like "real" guns, unlike these days (and long before I was a medic and cop). I got pulled over by the California Highway Patrol, and he asked for my license and registration. I popped open my glove box and saw it in there. I immediately took my hand away, got the officer's attention (he didn't happen to be watching), and said "There's a toy gun in my glove box." I let him reach in and retrieve it, rather than make any move toward it myself. He commented that it was smart of me to handle it that way. He was impressed enough, I guess, that he didn't give me a ticket, either! -rc

Posted by Ed, Toronto on January 3, 2010:

I have to say that this all strikes me as rather paranoid. Are the police really the bad guys, out to "get" someone - anyone - and you'll do just fine? If so, we're doomed no matter what we do, since they can just make up any lie they want anyway.

No, to me they are still the good guys, trying to protect the rest of us good guys. I think most people agree, which is why police generally have such high credibility with juries. Can you imagine if no one talked to the police? Would any crime ever be solved? I think some judgment is needed. Sure, you can insist on your full rights. So can the policeman exercise all of his. Then, instead of clearing up matters quickly and going on your way with your speeding ticket or just a warning, you find yourself in the back of a cruiser or in a station for hours.

To be fair, RC's original comment refers to a police "interview", i.e., you've been taken into the station for questioning. Sounds a lot more serious than a simple ticket, thus requiring a lot more caution. But the fast-talking lawyer doesn't seem to draw any distinction.

Posted by Bergman, Seattle WA on January 3, 2010:

The problem is, there is no way to know if you've met a Good Cop or an Asshole Cop or a Having A Bad Day Cop until you either stand on your rights or don't.

Even in the case of the Good Cop, if you honestly forgot you had your [insert illegal item here] in the car, or simply were unaware it was illegal where you've been pulled over, even the Good Cop will haul you off to jail.

Gambling a huge fine or long jail time against a policy of always being nice to people is silly. And people who do it probably deserve what they get, when they meet the Asshole variety.

Posted by Ian, Camberley, UK on May 22, 2010:

The UK version of the "Miranda rights" includes the sentence "It may harm your defense if you do not mention, when questioned, something which you later rely on in court." It's only after watching this video that I realise it's a case of "Morton's Fork" talking to the police - damned if you do and damned if you don't.

Posted by Ron NY USA on July 12, 2010:

I noticed several people asking about legality of recording in a vehicle. Contrary to what seems reasonable, this link says that at least three states have now made it illegal, even to the point of being a felony, to record police officers. This should be convincing us to be extremely careful about what we say to any public authority. The irony of so many police using video to help convict you, but making it illegal for you to create an independent video in case they "happen" to lose theirs, is beyond belief.

I hope the citizens in those states make it a cause to reverse these laws, but I'm not really hopeful. Too many politicians and others think they are "soft on crime" unless they support the Police, even when they are actually wrong.

For those who may be offended by the language or attitude of this link, I apologize but strongly urge you to look past it to the underlying points made.
cracked.com article: Completely legal ways cops can hurt you

Posted by Kael, UK on January 31, 2012:

This is true in the UK as well. I was pulled over on my motor scooter (we call them mopeds) becasue the tax disk was not visible. Next thing, becasue I "looked like someone" I was slammed against a wall (severely bruising my cheek and cutting my wrist that later needed stitches) frisked, then leg swiped onto the ground and restrained while a wagon came which bundled me away.

4 hours later I was released, no apology, nothing but a wad of paper towels to stop my bleeding and made to feel lke criminal scum just for "looking like" someone. It took a week to get my moped (scooter) back.

I used my website to publicise this to all my followers, naming the cop who had injured me, 6 weeks later I got a visit telling me I was "antagonizing the police".

???? I was so frustrated at that point I nearly did the worst possible thing and broke a chair over the coppers head. But If I had, I wouldn't have stopped till he could never get up again.

Posted by Julianne, Canada on March 10, 2012:

This is the only think you need to say to a cop.

Repeat to the cop as often as needed:

"Officer, I know you're just doing your job, and I am not resisting. However, I do not consent to search. I have nothing to say to you, and I want a lawyer. Am I being detained or am I free to go?"

Posted by Omaha Krymsun on January 17, 2013:

My story: I am Stephen George Weber. A few years ago, coming home from work in Atlanta on a Friday afternoon, I got off the Metro rail-line at its southern terminus, Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, where I waited out front of Terminal 1 on the sidewalk, where my roommate would soon arrive to pick me up for the last leg of my commute. While idling there, I noticed a police officer (guy by the name of BALDWIN) ticketing cars illegally parked in front of the terminal.

Back then, there were 4 traffic lanes, two immediately before the building and two more, separated from the closer two by a small, curbed 'island' on which was a windowed security-booth, the on-duty officer's station. During my wait, I watched officer BALDWIN, wondering what pooch he'd screwed, to be assigned as an airport meter-maid, surely one of the least-coveted assignments a police officer could draw. During my wait, I watched officer BALDWIN, busily enforcing the no-parking zone.

I observed BALDWIN as he chose to write up other vehicles, including one that hadn't been left as long as another that I had noticed, an empty car that had been left unattended on the far side of the booth, a car which had been there when I first came outside, perhaps as yet unnoticed by BALDWIN, since it was parked on the far side of the booth from where he stood, while BALDWIN wrote up yet another ticket for a car that had just been left. Taking a small measure of pity on BALDWIN for having drawn such duty, I thought to give BALDWIN a small assist by bringing to his attention the car he had been seemingly ignoring.

For my good deed, BALDWIN cited and arrested me for "interfering with a police officer in the course of his duties". Likely because I politely protested, BALDWIN compounded his incompetence by filling in the citation incorrectly, probably to interfere with my booking. In the boxes on the citation for the accused's name (clearly labelled Last, First, Middle), BALDWIN wrote mine in, first, middle, then last, causing me to be later called from the precinct's holding tank as George Stephen, not Stephen Weber. The delay created by this snafu caused me to suggest that my jailers were no more competent than BALDWIN, the arresting officer. As it was a Friday night, I had to remain in jail for the entire weekend; for BALDWIN, this was merely a happy coincidence, no doubt.

At my arraignment on Monday, the judge noted that the citation's charge against me was unsupported by any explanation, which should have detailed the reason for the charge, required to have been written in the area on the bottom half of the ticket, which BALDWIN had left blank. The judge asked if BALDWIN was present in court, to explain this over-sight, and provide just cause why I should be there. BALDWIN hadn't bothered to attend this hearing, of course, so the charge against me was dismissed. 'No harm, no foul'? Well, none suffered by the public or police, only me.

Unless you are not concerned about the very real possibility of gaining an arrest-record, suffering the inconvenience, discomfort, hassle, irritation, and righteous anger at such treatment, then do feel free to perform your good deed for the day, and help out the next police officer you can.

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