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WeStoop.com: Black Man Down (Knowing Your Rights With Law Enforcement)

16 Oct

Guest Blog: WeStoop.com
Author: Jordan Wooten

I didn’t want to write this. I mean I REALLY didn’t want to write this, but it has come to my attention that my African American brothers literally have NO idea how to act during police encounters. Furthermore, they have NO idea what their rights are when being confronted by an officer. This brief essay will explain what to do and what rights you have when being confronted by an officer. PLEASE TAKE NOTE.

IF BEING PULLED OVER:

1. Always remain calm. NO matter how intense the situation may get, never raise your voice or curse. Some police officers will try to provoke you to get you out of your comfort zone. Just take deep breathes and remain calm, cool and collected.
2. Keep everything in plain sight. As the officer approaches the window, make sure you and all passengers keep their hands in plain sight. It’s safest for the driver to keep his hands on the steering wheel.
3. Present your Driver’s License. If the officer asks you for your license, present it to them. It is illegal to drive without a valid DMV issued driver’s license or permit.
4. Do not submit to any searches and seizers without a warrant. (4th Amendment) If the officer asks you to step out of the car, you should fully comply. However, that does not give him permission to search your car or anything on your person. A police officer has to have a warrant or probable cause (the automobile exception. see: Carroll v. United States) to perform a search without your consent. As you are getting out of the car, you should roll up your windows, lock the door and place the keys in your pocket. This should deter the officer from “accidently” entering your car without permission. Officers can get really tricky. They can make false statements and even passive aggressive threats to get you to waive your rights. Just remember to calmly state, “Officer, I do not consent to any searches.”
5. You have the right to not self-incriminate. Any question you do not feel comfortable answering, you do not have to answer. This may make you appear evasive so exercise this law with caution. Be aware that you have the right to remain silent even if you are NOT being arrested.
6. Ask if you are free to go. Some officers don’t like to be challenged, and exercising your rights can feel like a challenge to them. They may start to lecture you, persuade you, or even intimidate you. If this starts to occur, it may be a good idea to calmly ask the officer, “Am I free to go?” The officer can either reply with yes or no. If they say yes, then slowly get back in your car and drive off. If they say no, then remain calm until you are free to go. It’s not about actually leaving, but more about letting the officer know and setting the tone that you are ready to leave. This goes a long way if indeed you need to file a law suit for unlawful detainment.
7. Remember as much as you can. If at the end of the police encounter you feel you have been treated wrongfully or unlawfully detained, it is important to write down as much of the information as you can as soon as you can. Information like badge number, the officer’s name (they must provide that to you if you ask them) and the squad car number are very important when filing a formal complaint to the police department. Contact any witness who may have seen the occurrence and obtain any additional information that would help your complaint.

IF BEING STOPPED ON THE STREET:

1. Always remain calm. Again, no matter how intense the situation may get, never raise your voice or curse. Just take deep breathes and remain calm, cool and collected.
2. Do not submit to any searches and seizers without a warrant. Since the state of Georgia is a ‘Terry Stop’ State police have the right to stop you and frisk you if they reasonably suspect you of committing a crime. Frisking does NOT include emptying out your pockets, going through your wallet or bags, and asking you to remove articles of clothing. Officers must have a warrant, or probable cause to perform a search like that. This right is protected by the 4th amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
3. Know your rights. This is where it gets a little dicey. You are definitely going to want to research how your rights can be exercised BEFORE you try to flex your rights on a police officer. Each state varies in its own laws, but it’s important to note that no state legislature can override your U.S. Constitutional rights.
4. Right to privacy. (4th amendment) as per the case of Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial District Court of Nevada you only have to present your ID if the police officer is detaining you or if the officer reasonably suspects you of committing a crime. Detainment can ONLY occur if the officer suspects you of committing a crime. If an officer asks you for ID, you have the right to ask if you are being detained. If he says no, then you then should ask if you are free to go. However, if you ask if you are being detained and the officer replies yes, then you have the right to immediately as what crime they suspect you of committing. If said officer cannot clearly articulate the crime you are committing, then you may ask if you are free to go.
5. Right to not self-incriminate. (5th amendment) At all times, you have the right to remain silent or not answer any question an officer is asking you. This is especially true if you are being questioned by an officer who has no valid suspicion of you committing a crime. Questions like, “where are you going”, “what is your name” or even “how old are you” are not required to be answered if the officer does not suspect you of committing a crime.
6. Right to free speech. (1st amendment) This is a basic right that often gets overlooked. This is important because this right extends to you recording an on duty police officer without their consent (Unless in the state of Illinois or Massachusetts) as long as you are not impeding their job. All you need to do is inform the officer that you are recording them. They may give you flack, but it is perfectly legal to record the police.
7. Remember as much as you can. Just like I mentioned above, If at the end of the police encounter you feel you have been treated wrongfully, or unlawfully detained, it is important to write down as much of the information as you can as soon as you can. These complaints do not go unheard and are your best avenue for ensuring justice in the future and reprimanding for the unjust officer.

The most important thing to remember about encounters with police officers is to use common sense. Be smart and analyze the situation before you decide how you want to proceed. Never…and I repeat….NEVER resist arrest. Even if you are being unlawfully detained or arrested, you should never resist an officer trying to arrest you. This could result in serious injury. Just simply say in a clear even tone, “Officer, I believe I am being unlawfully detained/arrested”. The battle you should try to win is the one in a court room. Not the one on the street. Small statements like that can go a long way in helping you to win a civil suit against unlawful arrests.

For more information on your rights when encountering police officers, please visit http://www.flexyourrights.org/

Thank you and God Bless

(CREDIT: WeStoop.com, Jordan Wooten)

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