*Dealing with law enforcement*
23 March 2005
Dealing with law enforcement is rarely a pleasant time because most of the time you have been a victim or witness to a horrible event or you are the criminal worrying about going to prison. This means that you will be scared, upset, angry or in pain and may not be thinking straight. If the crime involves death or serious injury the police that respond may be "on edge" or "hyped up" and be rather aggressive in the performance of their job. If the crime is "minor" in the eyes of the police they may seem uncaring in their words or actions. Regardless of your or the officers state of mind it is best to be prepared to deal with the officers in a calm and efficient manner.
The traffic stop
Traffic stops are common instances that occur occasionally in the lives of most drivers. It is important to make the stop quick and easy for the police officer, so they will allow the stop quick and easy for you.
- If it is quick and easy for the police officer, it is more likely that few if any tickets will be issued.
- An easy traffic stop will make it more likely that no one will be arrested and taken to the police station.
- Police officers usually have some discretion in deciding how many tickets to issue and how long they can keep the driver stopped. On occasion, this discretion depends on the attitude of the driver.
- An aggravated officer is more likely to request to search your car and distrust what you say is true. If a person refuses to allow the search, the officer can call out a drug or bomb dog to sniff the car. The noses of police dogs are literally admissible in court so if a dog says the car smells like drugs or bombs, it is legal for the police to search your car. If they find nothing under the seats, they may begin partially disassembling your car looking for the drugs. The police department will not reimburse the damage caused by the search. This is why it is better to be nice to the officer than rude.
- It is common knowledge in law enforcement that polite drivers who actually possess a driverís license, car insurance and vehicle registration paperwork actually receive fewer tickets than other drivers. Make sure you are driving legally, have all your paperwork and you stand a better chance of getting away with just a warning.
- If you have more than a few hundred dollars on your person or in your car never let the police search your body or your car. In many locations it is the policy of the local police department to seize large amounts of cash as suspected drug money. Once the money is seized it takes a law suit against the police department to get the money back. These law suits generally cost thousands of dollars and take over a year to complete. If does not matter if there is any evidence of your guilt, if it is their policy the police can take the money and keep it. If you do need to carry large amounts of money make sure you have proper and verifiable receipts that prove the money was legally obtained.
When you are stopped by a police officer for any reason, there are a few things to remember about how you should act.
- When you pull over, find a spot where the officer does not have to stand in the middle of a road to talk to you, as this aggravates them and puts their life in danger.
- Turn your engine off and keep your seatbelt on.
- Keep your hands on the top of the steering wheel where the officer can see them clearly.
- Roll down your window and turn off the radio so the officer can speak with you.
- If you are alone and afraid for your safety, just roll the window down an inch or two to talk with the officer. If the car is not a marked police car or the officer is not in uniform, drive (at a safe speed) to a busy area before you stop. Be sure to obey all traffic laws as you drive to the busy area. If you have a cell phone, you can call 911 to have the dispatcher tell the officer what you are doing and to request another marked police car to come to the scene.
- If there is a single police officer in a marked police car and you are afraid to exit you car you can always politely ask the officer to get another police car on scene before you exit your car.
- Have your driverís license, insurance and registration out of your wallet and ready to give to the officer. Even if you believe you are innocent the officer will still want to verify the paperwork.
- Regardless of your innocence the officer still has the right to see your paperwork and ask you to exit the car.
It is much easier to just be pleasant to the officer and let them do their job as they see fit. No matter how frustrated with the officer you may be, it will not make your situation any better to show anger or frustration with the officer. Showing anger or yelling at an officer will never make the officer change their mind about a ticket. If you believe the officer broke the law, you should go to the police station to report the incident, after the officer is finished giving you a ticket. If you feel like police officers are always singling you out, you may want to install an audio or video surveillance system in your car to capture any illegal activity. You must remember that hidden audio or video recording is not legal in many cities or states so be sure to check your local laws prior to recording anything.
When you get arrested
Getting arrested is not fun and cannot always be stopped but there are things you can do to make the experience less difficult.
- When a police officer decides to arrest you, there is nothing you can do to prevent it. If you argue, they will not change their minds, ever. When an officer decides to arrest someone, they become very single minded and will not listen to what you say until after you are handcuffed, if they decide to listen to you at all.
- If an officer says he wants to arrest you and you verbally argue or physically resist, the officer will begin to fear for his or her own safety. They will also begin to wonder if you are wanted for some other more serious crime. If you resist, they will use as much force as they need to restrain you.
- Your arguing or fighting will aggravate the officer and cause your physical pain or criminal charges to increase.
- If you actually win the fight with the police and escape, you will still lose in the long run. It is all too common for a police officer to attempt to arrest a person for a relatively minor charge when the person resists arrest, injures the officer and gets convicted of a more serious crime. The person now has committed a felony and will spend years behind bars because they could not control their own anger. This is very shortsighted on the part of the person being arrested.
- Depending on circumstances too numerous and complicated to discuss here the police investigating a crime will treat different suspects differently.
- On occasion they will do everything in their power to convict the suspect up to and including ignoring evidence.
- On other occasions they will do the opposite and ignore evidence that proves the suspects innocence.
- If you are a suspect or even just a witness be aware of this and act accordingly. Do not assume the police will recognize your innocence or the guilt of the real criminal.
- Since you cannot know the true intentions of the police officers, say nothing until you have spoken with your lawyer.
Thought processes of a police officer
Police officers exist to prevent crime and arrest criminals. They do this by observing their surroundings and reacting to what they see. Through their training and daily experience, they have learned to focus on certain individuals that fit into certain categories. One of the first things officers look for is an individual that sticks out in a crowd. If you do anything that is out of the ordinary for the area you are in, you will capture the attention of the police. If you look, dress or act differently than the officer believes is normal for the situation or location; the police will look at you to see if you are breaking the law.
- If you are the only teenager or twenty- something in a crowd of middle-aged people, you will be looked at more thoroughly than everybody else. It is a proven fact that most crime is committed by people under the age of 35, which is why the young get the attention of officerís more than older people.
- If your car has been obviously modified, is very loud or has an odd paint job, the police will pay more attention to you. It is a common belief among the police and society in general that modified cars are owned by individuals that commonly drink and drive as well as do illegal drugs.
- If you are walking or driving past 10 or 11 p.m., the police will look at you. It has been statistically proven that most crime occurs after business hours and after dark.
- If there are a lot of young people in a car, especially at night, the police will pay attention to you. A group of young people in a car often possesses drugs and alcohol.
- If you are loud or act very emotional or aggravated, the police will take notice of you. It is common for those that act strange to be on drugs or in need of help.
I am not saying it is totally fair how the police focus on some individuals, but it is a fact that it happens and it cannot be changed because it works. The police would not keep a behavior pattern if it did not pay off for them. When police look at the "odd" person in a crowd they are more likely to find a criminal. If you decide to look different than others in a group, do not be surprised if you get more attention from the police than others in a group.
You have the right to remain silent
If you are arrested, you should use the rights you are given by our constitution and stay quiet.
- The only time speaking will help is if you are able to show the police officers where immediately verifiable physical evidence is that proves your innocence. It is a rare individual that has that type of evidence immediately available so stay quiet.
- The best thing to do is to do what all attorneys say, keep quiet. Anything you say can and will be used against you. It is true that every word that you say will be helpful to the police.
- You will not know what evidence the police have or what they can prove.
- You cannot know which words that you say will be helpful in prosecuting you or in proving your innocence.
- Only your own attorney will know what words will help or hurt your case. The only thing you should tell the police is your name, address and that you want to speak to an attorney.
- It is important to remember that it is legal for the police to lie to suspects. The police commonly tells suspects that there are witnesses to the crime or that solid physical evidence exists that point to you being guilty. Never believe the police when you are being questioned.
- If you are to be questioned, attempt to have the questioning video taped with two cameras. The police can keep one tape and your lawyer or family should immediately receive the other tape in an unedited form. Make sure all the questioning beginning to end is taped and in your lawyers presence.
- Police often question suspects for hours on end, occasionally for over 12 hours straight without a break. This is a form of torture and will cause even the strongest person to become confused. It may become necessary for you to refuse to answer any more questions until the next day and after a good nightís sleep.
- The police may also make the room hotter or colder than normal, or they may "forget" to offer food to weaken the suspect. They are not really forgetting at all, it is planned.
Attempt to control the environment as much as possible. An extra day or two in jail is preferable to being tricked into confessing to a crime and spending years in jail.
- Police often use polygraph or voice stress analyzer tests to determine the guilt or innocence of a suspect. It should be remembered that these tests are not accurate and they are not admissible in court. The police do not actually use the test for any reason other than to scare the suspect into talking more It is easy for an innocent person to fail a test and a guilty person to pass the tests. If you decide to take one of these tests, do so only if your own attorney thinks it is a good idea. These tests will not help prove your innocence to any jury because they are never admissible in court. They are only good for convincing the police you are guilty, never that you are innocent.
- The police will tell you that the more you help them, the better it will be for you. This is not likely to be true.
- There are many individuals convicted of a crime based on less than perfect proof.
- Often it is a statement from a suspect that gives the police just enough information to construct a plausible scenario of how the crime was committed.
- In some of these cases, it was the statement of the suspect that led to the conviction with no other evidence. This is why you stay silent.
- It does not matter if you are a CEO, accountant, homemaker, computer programmer or a pilot, the more you speak to the police before you speak with an attorney, the more likely it is that you will be prosecuted and convicted.
The job of the police is to protect and serve, and they do this by sending people to jail.
- They send people to jail by arresting those that look, act or seem guilty.
- The police often do not really know who is or is not guilty as they arrest a person; they just have some information that points to a certain person being suspicious.
- This guilty looking person gets arrested, and the police begin to work with the prosecuting attorney to build a case.
- They use the information you provide to tie together the evidence they already have and to find more evidence. When they believe they have enough evidence to get a conviction, they go to trial.
- For these reasons, the more you talk, the easier it is to get convicted.
- Many inmates talked themselves into prison; you have no legal obligation to help put yourself into jail so donít do it.
- When possible, do not allow the police to audio or video tape youíre questioning unless you are able to get a full copy of the tape. The police may edit the tape in such a way that the full truth is not easily seen. They may "accidentally" loose the part of the tape that shows you were mistreated or abused.
- Remember, refusing to talk to the police or asking for a lawyer are not admissions of guilt or innocence, regardless of what the police or prosecuting attorney says. The police cannot tell the jury that you did not help them; it is not admissible in a court of law because the constitution says you do not have to help at all.
- I am not suggesting you should never talk to the police. I am only suggesting that you not talk until your own personal attorney tells you it is ok to talk.
Note: I am not an attorney and am not giving legal advice other than that you should consult an attorney. I advise you to contact an attorney to make sure any statements in this book are correct for any particular incident or jurisdiction you may be involved with.
People get sued every day for a variety of reasons. It is not the purpose of this section to discuss the merits of any case. This segment discusses what an average person might want to consider doing while going about their daily lives to either prevent a suit or strengthen the chance of winning a law suit.
- Lawyers are not trained to be fair but to be ruthless in defending the interests of their own client. No matter what the other personís lawyer says, it is not in your best interest. If the other personís attorney recommends you to do or not do anything, it is definitely not the best thing for you. It will only be in the interest of the other party.
- You must never sign a contract or agreement unless your own attorney looks it over first. If the other lawyer says the contract is standard in the industry, it is a lie. There is no such thing as a standard contract.
- If a lawyer wants you to give a statement about any event that happened you should be very scared. The lawyers go to school for years to learn to ask leading questions that seem innocent but in reality help only their side. If you ever give a statement, do it only if you have an attorney present and answer only the exact question that is asked.
- If you are in a car wreck or someone hurts themselves in your home do not apologize to them unless you caused the injury or damage on purpose, especially if there is any chance the other person could be taping you. Instead you should say, "That is horrible, itís too bad that it happened". Under the law an apology is similar to an admission of guilt. If an apology is given, especially if it is tape recorded it will strengthen their case.
- It is rather common for a homeowner, in an attempt to make the injured person feel better to admit that "I knew that floor was slippery, or I knew that rug was loose". It is important to resist the urge to make the injured party feel better by admitting any guilt or fault on your part.
If you believe a crime is being committed against you by your employer, school, landlord or anyone else, you will need proof to get the law to help you.
- The best proof is to get an audio or video recording of the criminal committing the act or admitting to doing the act.
- There are a variety of miniature audio and video recording devices that can be purchased.
- If you decide to use these devices, make sure it is legal to tape others without their consent where you live.
The least you should remember from this chapter is:
- Be polite and calm
2. Do not give a statement
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