Because it’s become such an issue in the news lately, I thought I’d write a quick guide to how a civilized person should behave when stopped or detained by police, and when being placed under arrest. I can’t guarantee this won’t get you a bruised wrist or a strained shoulder, but I’m betting it will keep you alive.
Of course, my advice is predicated on the idea that you aren’t a scumbag, dear reader, and won’t have heroin or an illegal weapon on you. If you are in the habit of breaking the law, I suppose this advice will mean nothing to you and you will end up writhing under a taser sooner or later, anyway. BUT, if you are a decent, law-abiding human regardless of color, I’m betting this advice will keep you pretty safe.
1. When asked to stop, stop–Don’t run away. Don’t keep walking. Don’t try and get lost in the crowd. Stop. If you are on foot, DON’T MOVE TOWARD THE OFFICER, but STOP and stand where you are. Be still. If you are in a car, pull over quickly to a safe spot on the shoulder or in a parking lot, put your car in park, turn on your dome light and put your hands on the steering wheel. Don’t rifle around for your belongings or license or registration. Just STOP and BE STILL. DO NOT OPEN THE DOOR OR MOTION TO EXIT THE VEHICLE UNLESS ASKED TO DO SO.
2. Keep your hands visible and be as still as possible–Don’t reach for your wallet until told to do so. Don’t fidget or squirm around. Don’t put your hands in your pockets. Don’t fiddle with your clothing. If you are carrying something, just hold onto it where it can be seen. Otherwise, keep your hands in front of you where the officer can see them; keep your fingers spread.
3. Speak clearly and in a polite, calm, conversational manner–Don’t raise your voice. Don’t be a smart-ass. Don’t act annoyed. Say “sir” and “ma’am.” Ask the officer to repeat anything you didn’t understand. Be patient; the officer may be talking into his radio and you may have to wait a second. Answer only what you are asked. Don’t let your nerves start you running off at the mouth. Answer honestly and, if you don’t know, say: “I don’t know.”
4. Announce your movements calmly and move slowly–Tell the officer what you need to do and what hand you will use to do it. If you are asked for ID, say something like: “My ID is in my wallet in my front right jacket pocket. I am going to reach into my pocket with my right hand and retrieve it.” If the officer tells you he will take care of it, LET HIM.
5. If you are carrying a concealed weapon, it is your duty to announce it and offer your license to have it–State laws differ and some hardcore anti-government types insist they don’t have to, but my advice is to be as transparent with a police officer stopping you as you can be. You don’t have to go into detail; just say that you are armed and that you have a license to be armed. Tell the officer where on your person the weapon is and where on your person your CCW is.
6. Cooperate–If the police officer says “Put your hands on the car,” do it. If the policeman says “Sit here and wait,” do it. Don’t be a rebellious teenager. They end up in the morgue or in jail.
7. Mentally note the name and badge number of the officer–If the officer is rude, rough or unprofessional, that information can be forwarded to the Sheriff or Chief of Police, the county or city manager or discussed with a city council member or brought before the local governing board in open session. It can also be noted in a letter to the editor of the local newspaper. If worse comes to worst, it can be directed to an attorney.
IF YOU ARE PLACED UNDER ARREST:
1. POLITELY ask what the charge is and for the number of the statute or ordinance the officer thinks you’ve violated–LISTEN to the answer. Try to remember it.
2. Do not resist, but do not VOLUNTEER any more information–Make the arrest as easy on the arresting officers as you can. Keep pace with the officers as they lead you, do not writhe, twist or struggle. Do not swear, shout or lose your temper.
Once again, BE QUIET. You have the right to remain silent. Use it. If you are under arrest, assume that your statements will be used against you in court.
3. Make your one phone call to a FAMILY MEMBER —Don’t waste your one phone call trying to call a lawyer from jail; call someone who needs to know where you are and have them contact an attorney on your behalf. Let your family member know if you are having any health issues because of the arrest or feel under threat in any way. That information can be used by an attorney.
4. Answer no questions after arrest UNLESS an attorney is present–Don’t be a jerk about it, just tell investigators that you will answer their questions when your attorney is in the room. DO NOT BE TALKED OUT OF THIS COURSE OF ACTION. Note the time of your arrival at the criminal justice facility if you can. The longer you are kept from seeing an attorney, the weaker the state’s case becomes, in many instances.
ONCE AGAIN: ONCE YOU ARE UNDER ARREST, DO NOT ANSWER ANY QUESTIONS EXCEPT FOR YOUR IDENTIFYING INFORMATION AND ADDRESS OF RESIDENCE WITHOUT AN ATTORNEY PRESENT.