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How to Assert Your Rights: Protect Yourself from Police

Know your rights police

Do you know your rights?

If the innocent truly had nothing to fear, what explains the hundreds of DNA major-crime exonerations to date? Innocence cannot prevent a false allegation.

Clearly, we all need education and tools to protect ourselves from police. And that helps avoid a costly criminal record or prison time.

So when the government turns its awesome power on you, what should you do?:

1. Panic.
2. Try to talk your way out of it.
3. Show submissive behavior, like a dog.
4. Confess early and often – even to things you know nothing about, to please them.
5. None of the Above.

Correct – none of the above. Panic, submission and wishful thinking – while all too common, are not the way to protect yourself.

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We The People: know your rights

Well then, what should you do?

Do Not Trust Police. Trust Yourself

Know your rights.  And assert your rights.

You can and must do this. 

But don’t make the common mistakes during police investigation.

Nobody Talks, Everybody Walks

Do not lie. Do not tell the truth. Say nothing. 

Consult a criminal defense lawyer before making any statements to police. That is the general rule, with few exceptions.

So when in doubt, remain silent. And if you hear a Miranda Warning, the alarm bells should be going off – be quiet!

Why? Police are generally good people. And just like the rest of us, they too have a tough job, pressures. They are human – not perfect.

Police have a point of view, a bias.  And, like all of us, they are subject to the “self-fulfilling prophecy” phenomenon. Psychologists call it “confirmation bias.”

Have you ever noticed that people tend to side with the first story they hear? Do you think police officers are immune?

Bottom line; police misinterpret other peoplecoerce unreliable statements, or both; for many reasons. So you need to know your rights.

So you can always make a statement later, if that makes sense, after consulting with your criminal law attorney.

After all, the truth won’t change.  It will still be the same a week from now.

Police try to create a sense of urgency. 

But their efforts to create a crisis, to get a statement, are self-serving.  Because they don’t want you to “lawyer up.”

Somethings never change: What would Jesus do?  Do what he did; at his trials.  He was silent, and would not take the bait of his accusers:  The Trial of Jesus.

Avoid “Consenting” to a Search

When you know your rights, you don’t consent to a search.

But they train police to get “consent” to search.

Consent is an exception to the search warrant requirement of the Constitution. If police get valid, voluntary consent, a judge will rule the search legal. So an illegal search becomes legal, if you consent!

But why would a sane person ever give real, voluntary, consent to a police search? Nothing better to do?

So every so-called “consent” search involves a degree of coercion by police. And the judges draw the line about how much is too much.

That means you need to expect police to push or manipulate you. Be ready. And never consent.

So giving in to police coercion to “consent” to a search is a big mistake.  And don’t think that a lawyer can fix it later.  Because there is no guarantee of that!

Refuse to consent to any search by police – of your person, belongings, vehicle, or living or work-space.

A majority of police contacts happen as the result of traffic stops.

Eyes on the prize

It is better for the defense, to endure delay, detention, even arrest – rather than consent to a search. Some may think “why not consent.  They’ll search anyway.” But think about it. Why would police want to create a sense of inevitability about a search? If your consent was unimportant; why are they trying to get it?

That is a bad idea.  And that is what they want you to think.   Because your “consent” would likely prevent a judge suppressing evidence from an illegal search.   So, know your rights.

Consent throws your legal rights away.  So don’t throw your rights away.  Your lawyer will need them later to win your case.  This is most true when you’re innocent.  Why? Because false charges and convictions of innocent people are an even greater injustice.

If police can search lawfully with a warrant, they do not need consent.   With a search warrant, you should not physically or verbally interfere.  But you do not need to speak.  And never consent to a search, ever.

What is consent?

Consent can be verbal or non-verbal. So it’s like any interpersonal communication.

When we communicate with each other, we have our own intention. But effective communication means the other person understands what we wish to communicate. So we must work for clarity.

Sometimes the other may have an agenda. Or their bias may interfere with understanding.

But judges will apply their own, more objective standard. And the video record helps them do that.

So, your mission is to be clear. Repetition helps. Verbal clarity helps. And support that with your body language. Avoid consent by conduct.

Even if the police ignore your clear, repeated, consistent communication of “I do not consent!;” make the video record.

Good legal hygiene

O.k., you know your rights. But are you ready for the stress test?

Know them better!  After all, it’s a lifelong process.  So learn as much as you can about the law.   And then you can better protect yourself and your loved ones, legally.

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Under 21?  Know your rights under Minnesota’s underage drinking laws.

Drive a car?  Learn tips on avoiding traffic stops.  And get a wealth of legal information.

And remember, if police contact you, about a possible crime, know your rights.  So consult a criminal defense lawyer quickly; to seek investigation representation or pre-charge counsel.

How to Know > Do You Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer?

Your lawyer can help you take steps to protect yourself from the injustice and awesome power of the government.

Have a question about your rights and the police? Call Attorney Thomas Gallagher at 612 333-1500.