The political climate is changing and people are beginning to notice that the police necessarily aren’t on their side all of the time. That’s not to say that they’re not necessarily good people. However, when they believe a crime has taken place, many have trouble not turning it into an ‘us vs. them’ thing. That’s why there are rights to protect yourself from the police and knowing them can be a lot of help.
If you’re not committing any crimes and grabbing the attention of the police, it’s likely that you’re only going to get in an encounter with them if there is probable cause for them to suspect that you have committed a crime. Proving that probable cause is essential. If they can’t, then even if you’re later in trouble for having contraband, then a possession lawyer could help you avoid a charge entirely. Probable cause includes things like smelling contraband, speeding, traffic violations and other indications that you are committing a crime.
Your right to consent (or not)
In every case, unless you are provided with a warrant, you should not consent to a search. Consenting to a search throws probable cause out the window. Unless they have a warrant, you don’t have to consent to a search. Even if you have nothing to hide, you shouldn’t consent. Saying ‘no’ can prevent a search altogether in a lot of cases. Searches can also damage your property and waste a lot of your time. The most important thing to consider, however, is that you never know what they will find if you consent to a search. Even if you think you’re fine, you can’t be 100% sure of it.
Your right to silence
You have a right to refuse to answer any question a police officer asks you in certain situations. If they have you pulled over the road and they ask for your license and registration, it’s a good idea to cooperate simply to keep things going smoothly. If you’re being detained or under arrest, make sure that the officer confirms it. When they do, you can inform them that you’re invoking your rights and that you want to talk to a lawyer. It’s not enough to simply be silent.
Your Miranda rights
This is one that people get confused. You can get out of a charge if you can prove a lack of probable cause. But you can’t do that, as some might imagine, if you weren’t read your Miranda rights when being questioned. You only get read your Miranda rights when you’re under arrest and being questioned for a crime. Both those prerequisites need to be true in order to have your rights read to you. Don’t wait for them to read those rights, either. Invoke and exercise your right to silence if you’re being detained or arrested first and foremost.
Understanding your rights, where they apply, when they don’t, and when to get help, is essential. If police are searching, inquiring, or arresting you, they’re not on your side and you need to protect yourself.