Online Paralegal Programs says that most avoidable arrests come from police trickery and intimidation, which lead you to consent to a search or admit guilt. Know your rights and how to avoid police tricks with this handy infographic.
Some of the most important tips to remember when dealing with cops:
- Clarify if it’s a police request or an order
- Ask if you’re being detained or free to go—and ask to leave often
- Don’t exit immediately when you see a “drug checkpoint in 1 mile sign”—cops/dogs are at the exit, not one mile down
Couple this with the advice we heard previously from an ex-cop, and hopefully you can maintain your rights during a police encounter (assuming the officer isn’t a racist jerk).
Here’s the full graphic (click to expand, right-click to save):
You Have the Right to Stay Out of Jail
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Knowing Your Rights
Amendment IV – The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Whether you are a US citizen or not
3 Levels of police/citizen encounters
● Consensual – casual conversation
○ Evidence level required – Zero
○ Freedom to leave – yes
○ ID required – no
○ Legal search – plain sight or consensual
○ Example: Officer knocks on door to ask if you saw anything
● Investigative Detention- Temporary detainment for further info.
○ Evidence level required – Reasonable Articulable Suspicion
■ Visible paraphernalia (Ziplocks, rolling papers, pipes)
■ Tools for B&E (Crowbar, slim jim, weapons)
■ Profiling (Paper tag, DARE/Police decals, College attire, Gangster attire)
○ Freedom to leave – no (approx. 15-20 minute max)
○ ID required – not in 26 states (exception: you’re a driver)
○ Legal search: frisk, plain sight, or consensual
○ Example: Officer sees you wearing a ski mask at night.
● Arrest – Taken into police custody
○ Evidence level required – Probable Cause or warrant
○ Freedom to leave – no
○ ID required – yes
○ Legal search: frisk, plain sight, consensual, or warrant
○ Example: Officer catches you breaking and entering
Best Practices to Exercising Your Rights Safely
○ Always be polite, respectful, and keep hands visible
■ Reduce Exposure to Suspicion
● Crack door/window unless ordered to open fully
○ Clarify it’s an order, a request is not an order.
● Keep questionable items out of plain sight:
○ prescription bottles / medicine
○ rolling papers
○ measuring scale
■ Ask to leave often
● Omitting to ask = voluntarily staying
■ Ask for cause
● Officers must articulate observed suspicions
■ If requested to do anything, clarify you will if it’s “an order”
■ Record or immediately write down your encounter
● **disclaimer: Audio and video recording laws differ state by state
■ Report any violations of your rights
■ Lie or give false documents
■ Answer questions
■ Give permission to a search without fully reading a warrant
■ Argue, resist, run, or obstruct– even if your rights are being violated
○ Filming your encounter with police:
■ You may video and audio record police performing official duties in public.
● Officer may NOT:
○ Confiscate, demand to view, or delete without a warrant.
Individual may NOT:
■ Interfere with the officers’ duty [ex. “stand back!” do so]
■ Physically resist– if officer reaches for your device, do not resist, just report it.
Tricky Police: Police may legally lie, bluff, and intimidate you.
○ Most avoidable arrests occur from trickery and intimidation:
■ admission of guilt
■ consenting to a search.
○ Refusing a search or to answer incriminating questions are not:v
■ admissions of guilt
■ reasons to detain you
○ Miranda Rights are read only in “police custody”
■ visual: handcuffs
○ Common Police tricks:
● “Have you had anything to drink tonight?”
○ Best response: “Respectfully officer, I don’t have to answer that.”
● “Not answering is suspicious, why are you resisting?”
○ Best Answer: “I’m not resisting, respectfully, I don’t have to answer anything.”
● “If you have nothing to hide, you don’t mind if I look around.”
○ Best response: “I’m sorry Officer, but I don’t consent to searches.”
● “If you refuse a search, I’ll have to call a K-9 unit.”
○ Best response: “Officer, are you detaining me, or am I free to go?”
Breath Tests to Determine BAC
○ Do you HAVE to take it? No, you have the right to refuse.
■ Be warned, refusal is an automatic, irreversible suspension of license (in every state)
○ Blood tests are more accurate, and require a warrant
○ Breathalyzers are tuned to the “avg” person
■ False positive factors:
● Smaller people
● Small lung capacity
● Acid Reflux (GERD)
● Low-Carb Diet
● Fumes (ex. paint, Ethanol gas)
○ DUI – Legality: protection from “imminent public danger”
■ Same rules as any other traffic stop
■ Legal search – Agents may legally search anything without warrant
○ Drugs (It’s a Trap!)
■ The Supreme Court ruled random checkpoints for finding drugs are unconstitutional.
● “We cannot sanction stops justified only by the generalized and ever-present possibility that interrogation and inspection may reveal that any given motorist has committed some crime.”
● “Drug Checkpoint in 1 Mile” [sign] is a police trap, do NOT exit.
○ (visual of the sign near an exit cops/dogs are at exit, not 1 mile down)
○ Pull people over for:
■ Illegal U-Turns
■ Suspiciously exiting
YOU HAVE RIGHTS, Know them.
Note: Laws vary by region, please do your research and know what the rights are in your area.