Know Your Rights

illustration by Megan James
illustration by Megan James
illustration by Megan James

In light of the murder of Sandra Bland, I’ve felt it extremely necessary to talk about police brutality. Police Brutality has been a big topic of conversation since the beginning year, however is not solely a race issue. American citizens are protected by a number of rights but those lessons are not taught to us everyday in school. It is evident that some cops are not equipped to handle high stress situations and get a little trigger happy when the situation escalates. I believe it is extremely important to understand your rights when dealing with cops because your life does matter. Due to the increase of technology, cops are being recorded and called out for their murders yet are still not being held accountable for their crimes. That is a SERIOUS problem. Here is some information I feel is important to know when facing the police.

All arrests must be established upon a probable cause belief that a crime has been committed and that the subject in custody must have committed a crime. The Fourth Amendment states: “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….”

An officer can only arrest someone: with probable cause; with an issued warrant by the judge; or if they personally observed the crime when getting pulled over.

Things to Remember:

Pull over safely & quickly using turn signals. Hang up any calls and record all activities for your own protection using a voice recorder. (This is unlawful in some states, so check out: http://www.dmlp.org/legal-guide/state-law-recording or http://www.diligentiagroup.com/legal-investigation/private-investigator-tips-is-it-legal-to-record-a-phone-call-or-conversation/ to see whether you need one or two-party consent.) Be polite and respectful no matter what. Refrain from aggressive language or body language. Do not give the officer any reason to get further suspicious or irritated of you.

The officer will most likely ask “Do you know why I pulled you over?” Your answer is ALWAYS you have no idea. It is easier for the officer to charge you for whatever you admit to.

The officer will ask for your license and registration. Comply! Give the officer your information and remain quiet. Your (2) Fifth Amendment states that you have the RIGHT to remain silent, you are not required to give further information.

They do not have the right to search your vehicle without your consent or a probable cause to believe evidence of a crime can be found in your vehicle. Do not let an officer intimidate you into consenting to search your vehicle. Pay attention to tricky wording.

Immediately after you refuse consent ask the officer (politely) if you are free to go. At this point he can detain you or let you go and the conversation becomes consensual or nonconsensual. If it is a consensual encounter that means you can terminate it by leaving. If it is a non-consensual encounter, remaining silent is your only priority!

Stopped on the Street

Police officers are only allowed to use the minimum amount of force necessary to protect themselves and bring the suspect into police custody.

Remember: Ask why you have been stopped and at the end ask for a record for search.

You can be stopped and searched if the police have a reasonable suspicion that you are in possession of: controlled drugs, offensive weapon or firearms, carrying a sharp article, carrying stolen goods, if you are in a coach or train, going to, or you have arrived at, a sports stadium.

You run the risk of both physical injury and serious criminal charges if you physically resist a search. If it is an unlawful search you should take action afterwards by using the law.

Hopefully these tips and information were helpful. Be wise and protect and serve yourself.


Opinion Editor, Monica Houston

_MG_8104 (2)Monica is a transfer student from Norfolk State University studying English. Her dog, Furby, is an in-office celebrity and frequently attends production and meetings with Monica.

houstonm@commonwealthtimes.org

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