Notes taken from my class at my local library
I love to go to the library not only to check out old movies, but to see what’s going on in the neighborhood. Our local library here in Conyers, GA offers classes, author events, and children’s events during the year, and it lets the public know about the happenings through a library flyer and an E-news (TV) center located on a wall behind the Reference Desk or behind the Information Desk. I just happened to go one Saturday and picked up a flyer and I’m glad I did. There was a two-hour class, free to the Public, with an Atlanta lawyer providing information on citizens’ rights when encountering law enforcement – the class, “Act Like a Citizen, Think Like a Cop.” This was a great class! I wish there were more teenagers present in the class. So here are my notes from that class, and I also provide links to another article that is a must read. The Atlanta lawyer strongly suggested that citizens should NOT tell officers their rights.
How to Conduct Yourself with Law Enforcement – assert your Constitutional Rights
The Atlanta lawyer first began by saying that police are human along with the following:
- They have egos
- They are competitive
- They feel the need to control
- They have biases
- They have this Use of Force Continuum
- They have dangerous jobs (their choice of course)
- They can be shot and killed by anyone
- They bring baggage to encounters, i.e., they could have had a bad day on the job or at home before they encounter you
- When approaching an individual, police look at the following:
- The size of the individual
- The ethnicity of the individual
- The clothing of the individual
- The vehicle of the individual (more suspicious with dark car windows)
The class was told about Adversary Positions:
- When you’re arrested
- When you’re stopped
- When you’re a person of interest
- When you’re approached
- When you’re a suspect
Officers are suspicious to begin with and when one approaches you, you should be suspicious too. Don’t give up more to law enforcement that is legally required. As a citizen, your objective is to control the situation/encounter, but tactfully. How can a citizen control a situation/encounter with law enforcement?
- We can control the tone of the situation/encounter, by remaining calm and cool. When you get emotional you give up control.
- Kill law enforcement with kindness.
- Control the legal outcome by helping to end the situation/encounter as soon as possible.
- Citizens can pay attention and listen.
- Watch the TMI answers meaning the Too Much Information answers. One answer words are best, and no answers to officers’ statements are appropriate. Statements are not questions – silence is best.
- Example question – Officer: “Do you know why I stopped you?” Citizen: “No officer, please tell me.”
- Example statement – Officer: “Smells like marijuana in your car.” Citizen: “Hmm?” There is no need to answer the officer’s statement.
- Watch the quick, trick, and compound questions.
- If a citizen encounters the non-question, then that non-question requires the non-response, response.
When you have an encounter with law enforcement look for verb and physical evidence:
- Get the officer’s name and badge number
- Officer is to tell you why you’ve been stopped
- Know when the stop began and when the stop ended – document the stop or record it with your Smart Phone
- Notice people (witnesses) around you, i.e., how many and if anyone is recording your encounter
- When you know you’ll be stopped or approached by law enforcement make a call to a friend to let him or her know where you are and what’s happening. Remember the Trayvon Martin case? Trayvon made a phone call to a friend before his encounter with a wanna-be law enforcer, and that phone call was admissible in court.
- Put your phone on record
Speak the Visible – How?
If the officer tells you to give him or her your license, registration, and insurance, then say out loud (your phone should be on), “Officer, I’m now getting my insurance and registration out of my glove compartment.” “Officer I’m reaching into my jacket pocket to get my wallet or pocketbook where my driver’s license is kept.”
Constitutional Rights – 4th, 5th, and 6th Amendments
- 4th: Citizens are not subject to unreasonable searches or seizures
- 5th: Citizens are not forced to give evidence against themselves
- 6th: Citizens have a right to an attorney
- Consensual Encounters
- If an officer approaches you, you’re not obliged to answer questions
- You have the right to leave, i.e. walk away if an officer walks up to you and starts a conversation
- You don’t have to identify yourself (the United States doesn’t require you to carry identification). Some states have Stop and Identify Law, the state of Georgia does not.
- “Terry Stop” – a brief detention of a person by police on reasonable suspicion of involvement in criminal activity but short of probable cause to arrest. Based on the case Terry V. Ohio.
- There should be a brief detention of the citizen
- Officer must have articulable suspicion
- On-the-scene investigation can take place
- Timing is important (when the stop began and when it ended)
- There must be probable cause
- Citizens can be pat down, but cannot be searched, unless the citizens consent
- Traffic Stop
- Again, record/document when stop begins and when it ends
- Find out why you were stopped; the officer needs to tell you
- If on a highway put on your hazard lights, and pull over
- If you are pulled over at night, put on your dome light
- Wait until the officer requests your driver’s license, registration, and insurance. You don’t want the officer to see you reaching for anything in your vehicle because he or she can assume you are reaching for a weapon
- Put your hands on the steering wheel
- Put your window down just enough to hand the officer your driver’s license and registration; don’t give the officer room to stick his or her head in your vehicle
- If asked to get out of your car, get out, lock your car, and put your keys in your pocket
- If officer asks to search you, your car, your cell phone, or other digital device, say, “Officer, I do not consent to any searches.”
- Full Blown Arrest
- Citizens have a right to an attorney
- Citizens must be give Miranda Rights
- Citizens will be interrogated
Three phrases citizens can use to assert their legal rights:
- “Officer, am I being detained, or am I free to leave?
- “Officer, I don’t want to say anything without a lawyer.”
- “Officer, I do not consent to any searches.” Or “Officer, I know you’re doing your job, but I do not consent to any searches.”
Cell Phone or Other Digital Devices
- If an officer asks to see your cell phone, say, “Officer, I do not consent to any searches.” That goes for any of your electronic devices, i.e., iPad, laptop. They need a search warrant.
——-End of Notes ——-
When kids see a uniformed-authority figure they have a tendency to coward down – that’s a no, no! Authority figures should not be feared if the child is doing nothing wrong – that is the key. I’m not saying that authority figures are always right either. We’ve seen in today’s society that some authority figures abuse and misuse their power, and they have created an atmosphere of mistrust. Parents, you need to teach your children to respect authority, but also NOT to give up their rights under law. I like a statement I once read – “Police are not the enemy, unless they choose to be.” This website, Police Crimes, has great advice for kids – every kids needs to read this article. Authority is not to be feared, but respected. The word fear means, false evidence appearing real.
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