The news has been bombarded with stories lately of police brutality, and unexplained deaths of individuals while in police custody. All though the obvious question that needs to be asked and investigated and answered is, why? Why is this happening? Why are those who have chosen the profession to protect and serve, doing so much harm?
Some may say this is not new; this is not something that is now happening. Some may say it has been happening for a long time, what is happening is social media is allowing the public to see more, people are catching everything on their iphones. What is the disconnect? Is it cultural? Is it simply someone who is not familiar with the people they have to work with so a loathing is developed due to misinformation, prejudices, and plain old supremacy? Bottom line, do you know your rights and does it matter?
According to Pixweb.com, “Governor Cuomo signed an executive order appointing a special prosecutor at the Attorney General office to handle cases involving unarmed civilians killed by police. Led by Alvin Bragg an experienced prosecutor and former assistant U.S. Attorney.” Police in New York were also given a memo that stated they couldn’t legally stop someone from filming police actions. Attempts to obstruct cameras, or ordering a citizen to cease constitute censorship and also violate the First Amendment. So film away citizens.
ason Williams, an American Civil Liberties Union Lawyer, in a recent interview (www.independent.com) stated that, depending on which state you are in you may need to identify yourself. But you are legally permitted to deny making any further statement. You can simply say, “I choose not to answer that question.” That may work for some but may be the beginning of the end for others. Eric Broyles, attorney and author of “Encounter with Police: A Blackman’s guide to Survival”, stated that “Until we work through some of the cultural issues and training issues in police departments, my objective is to get people home safely. That’s why the theme is comply now, contest later.
Therefore: When you first see a police car pull over. Letting them know you are complying. Use your signal. Let them know they are in control by being polite and complying.
Always be polite even if the officer is aggressive.
Place your hands on steering wheel.
Roll down window.
Turn off engine.
If it is nighttime turn on indicator light.
Do not reach for documentation if an unmarked vehicle pulls you over politely asks for identification and badge. You can ask for a supervisor to come to the scene, or follow officer to police station. Do not give an officer an excuse to search your car. Don’t through anything out the window. Don’t slouch; you may look like you are hiding something. Keep calm.
If an officer believes that you are armed or dangerous they can search you. If they have probable cause they can search your vehicle. If the officer views something in plain sight they can then search your vehicle. Such as an open beer can, wine bottle or drug paraphernalia. If you or your passenger is arrested your vehicle can be towed and an inventory search of the vehicles contents can be done without reasonable suspicion.
Remember only get out of your car if the police ask you to. Let the officer do most of the talking do not interrupt. Do not be argumentative and don’t say anything that the officer can record and use against you. The reality is you have the right to refuse consent to search. Police need probable cause to search a vehicle, which means an officer needs to see, smell or hear something that may be criminal to perform a search. Now if they have probable cause to search your vehicle, or if you have been placed under arrest, they can search you or your vehicle whether you give your consent or not.
If you are stopped keep your hands visible on the steering wheel. Don’t start looking through your pockets or pocketbook for your license does not take that time to look through your glove compartment. For all the officer knows you are looking for a gun. All of us are not law-abiding citizens and the job of law enforcement is a dangerous one. Answer questions asked, with yes or no. Officers are trained to let you incriminate yourself. Okay and I see are good noncommittal responses. Silence is often best it is not an admission of guilt and cannot be used against you. It is his or her job to prove your guilt. On the other hand some attorneys say silence only if you are guilty as sin. Staying silent may guarantee you a ticket, while a simple response may only get you a warning. Nonetheless, you are within your rights to remain silent. Visit knowmyrights.org to learn more about your rights in different situations.