Social Question

jaketheripper's avatar

Does anyone know of a resource that clearly states my rights when dealing with police?

Asked by jaketheripper (2768 points ) October 7th, 2009

what are they allowed to do? what am I allowed to do? What should I do if they don’t do what they’re supposed to do? Does it vary from state to state?

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21 Answers

Bluefreedom's avatar

What are they allowed to do? In what situations are you referring to?

What am I allowed to do? Under what circumstances are you talking about?

What should I do if they don’t do what they’re supposed to do? You need to elaborate.

jaketheripper's avatar

I don’t have any specifics. I’m mostly looking for a resource to consult not an answer to a specific event. But i hear stories of cops arresting people for insulting them. My friend had his car searched w/o a warrant or probable cause. I would just like to be more educated on what my rights are in the most practical sense. When can I tell an officer he is wrong?

gussnarp's avatar

Whatever may be technically legal, the de facto situation is this: no you can’t tell an officer he is wrong. You basically have to do exactly what they tell you to do and be nice to them, end of story. While what they are doing may not be legal, you will likely have to sort it out at the station or in court. The best bet is to be as nice as possible and try to resolve the issue without actually telling them they’re wrong. The only time you can really get away with not doing what a cop tells you to is if it is something truly heinous, but even then, they’ve got the badge and gun, if they abuse it you really have no recourse other than going to the courts after the fact.

Walshy's avatar

@gusnarp
that’s total bullshit I’m afraid, yes the cops have a duty but they have no right in doing whatever they please just cos they feel like it. If, and I mean a big IF you haven’t done anything wrong and they’re being arsey with you then tell them they have no rights. You have rights as a civilian and make them aware tou will press charges against them unless they get their act together. Gun or no f*cling gun!!

Walshy

gussnarp's avatar

@Walshy – if you want to be tased for something stupid, be my guest. The courts enforce your rights, and it may suck, but if a cop wants to be an arse, he can and will be. You’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

CMaz's avatar

They cant come in your home or on you property without a warrant. You can tell them to leave and they have to.
A a police officer knocks on your door to ask questions. You do not have to answer, you can just close the door.
If he obstructs you from closing the door he is trespassing. If he pushes his way in he better have some serious probable cause. To open that can of worms.

But once your ass hits the pavement. Obstruction and probable cause is a free wheeling tool that they can use. Including holding you in jail for 72 hours without charging you.

So always be nice. Kiss ass and understand for the most part they are just doing their job to keep us all safe.

grumpyfish's avatar

What @ChazMaz said. Knowing your rights is good—and its important to try to keep the police from crossing them if you can.

However, I try never to give a police officer reason to be afraid of me. That’s generally where things get rough.

Once erroneously got pulled over when my plate ran as stolen—everyone stayed calm, I kept my hands where they could be seen. The cops were polite, I was polite. In this situation, had I been belligerent or otherwise uncooperative they would have had me on the ground and into the back of the cruiser while they checked everything out—and well within their rights (as far as they knew, I was driving a stolen car).

Even though you KNOW you’re innocent, doesn’t mean the cops think that, so be nice.

cwilbur's avatar

Be polite; be civil; keep your hands where they can see them, and don’t make any sudden moves. Don’t volunteer any information, and don’t give them permission to do anything. If they ask to do something, it’s because they either don’t have the legal right to do it without permission, or because they’re being polite; if you give that permission, and whatever it is they wanted to do was not actually legal without your permission, you lose the ability to suppress the result of the act in court.

They can reasonably ask you to identify yourself. They can reasonably ask for something like a driver’s license or permit. They cannot search you unless they have cause to believe that you are committing or have committed a crime; the standards for cause are much lower in the case of a car stop, because of the possibility that if they let you go long enough to get a warrant, you can drive off and destroy evidence.

As far as anything else goes, cooperate with them and call a lawyer at the earliest opportunity. If you try to play power games, you will lose, because as long as they can come up with a reasonable justification for any act they take, they won’t be punished for it. If you don’t like the way the situation is going, the time to sort things out is not when the cops are there with guns and handcuffs, but after the fact, in court.

gussnarp's avatar

@cwilbur and @ChazMaz are right about searches in general. If the officer says, mind if I take a look in your car, you do have the right to say “I’d rather you didn’t”. You can do this without being rude.

drdoombot's avatar

I’ve wondered about this question as well due to an incident that occurred a few years ago (I still think about it):

A friend and I were eating chips in a car parked in a parking lot known to be used by weed-smokers. At the time, neither of us had been introduced to the drug yet. A couple of cops tapped on the glass and asked us to step out of the car. They asked if we had drugs on us, to which we both said, “no,” but the officer next to me started sticking his hands in my pockets and shining the light inside my friend’s car and looking around. The other officer did the same.

I was nervous at the time, so it didn’t come to me right then they were searching us and the car without asking. I’ve asked several people if I should have refused the personal search, but everyone says it’s a big hassle: the cop will end up taking you down to the station, holding you there until they determine you haven’t done anything wrong and then, maybe, get in trouble with his CO for wasting everyone’s time. Being the kind of person I am, I think I’m willing to go through all of that so that an officer will get his.

That event has always made me wonder about what my rights are and what happens to the officer when they waste time on someone who didn’t break any laws.

deni's avatar

My mom and her boyfriend used to go to these “constitution classes” that basically taught you all of your rights as an American. This was a few years ago, and I don’t remember much, but I know that the cops do a lot that they shouldn’t, because most people don’t know all the little details and all the rights you have. It’s pretty interesting, I should have gone.

One time I got pulled over and my car got searched. The guy told me to “sign this warrant”, and when I asked what would happen if I didn’t, he went off on me. He became really angry and started yelling at me about how IF I DONT SIGN THIS RIGHT NOW YADA YADA YADA basically it doesn’t matter if you don’t wanna sign it because they’ll just make it way more inconvenient for you, take up a bunch of your time, and probably end up searching it anyhow! Pretty much what @drdoombot said right above me. Wish I would have known more about my rights when dealing with the police in that kind of situation.

Everything about that night was totally unnecessary. I got pulled over for “swerving”, and somehow this required four cop cars to be on the scene. I’m glad they had nothing better to do. They “smelled weed” so after yelling at me for twenty minutes the one guy proceded to tear the car apart. Almost literally. He threw shit everywhere, dumped stuff out, and everything he saw he questioned me about. It wasn’t actually my car, it was my friends, and this is odd but my friend had a rock in the back that he had taken from a stream while we were in Colorado a few months prior—well the cop seemed to think that I had been going around bashing peoples heads in with this rock.

It was just stupid. It was a waste of my time, I should have been sleeping.

Fuck the police comin straight out the underground…....jk

gussnarp's avatar

@drdoombot It doesn’t matter if you had explicitly refused the search, they searched you without asking permission and without a warrant, therefore, had they found anything it could not have been used in court unless they could prove probable cause. The only thing you really could have done differently is file a complaint after the fact.

cwilbur's avatar

@drdoombot: Basically, you have the right to refuse the search; if they have enough other probable cause, they can take you down to the station and try to get a warrant to search you. If they seriously do believe that you’ve committed a crime, or they want to be jerks, they’ll do that. Still, if you consent to the search, it becomes legal even if it wasn’t legal beforehand.

It’s a gamble: you have to weigh the exercise of your rights against the hassle the police can legally cause you. As @deni says, if you don’t consent to the search, there are ways for them to search you anyway, and those ways are going to be more inconvenient.

gussnarp's avatar

@cwilbur It’s not consent if you are just standing there and they start putting their hands in your pockets.

grumpyfish's avatar

@drdoombot In some cities “being a teenager in a place where teenagers have been caught with drugs before” has been used (successfully) as probable cause.

Not saying that it wasn’t unreasonable search…

jaketheripper's avatar

I looked around and found this on the ACLU website. It does a good job of explaining what to do different situations.

dpworkin's avatar

It doesn’t really matter what is legal, or normative, or general in individual situations with Police. You do what they say, as soon as they say it, with a cooperative attitude and in a polite tone of voice, and then get a lawyer to straighten out anything wacky about the interchange later, when you are safe.

scamp's avatar

I found a site that you might find helpful. I would cooperate with the cops now and take it up in court later tho.Tthey can put you to the ground before you even see them move.. I know firsthand, and wish I didn’t!

YARNLADY's avatar

What are they allowed to do? Anything they want to do.
What are you allowed to do? Follow their instructions
What do you do if they exceed their authority? Hire a lawyer and file a complaint with the department.

AshlynM's avatar

I think it may vary from state to state.

Bottom line: Be calm, cool and collected. Never resist arrest, even if it wasn’t necessary. Do not yell, scream or accuse. You have the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney.

This article may help you.

http://www.aclu.org/drug-law-reform-immigrants-rights-racial-justice/know-your-rights-what-do-if-you

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