Tips from a cop

I had the opportunity to pick the brain of a career law enforcement officer yesterday, and he had a few interesting things to say. I don't have the time or inclination to relay them all to you, but a few tips:

If you get pulled over, be polite. Yelling will definitely get you a ticket. You might get one anyway, but you ought to try your best not to. You're not going to convince the cop of the error of his ways no matter what you do.

Turn on the dome light and roll the windows down. Unless you have visible contraband or anything else that is otherwise suspicious, this will set the cop at ease. You don't want the cop to be more agitated than he has to be. That can only be bad for you.

They don't always need a warrant to search the car. Usually they do, but there are plenty of cases in which they are allowed to search your car without a warrant. If you have contraband, you'd better be a model driver and don't act fidgety or defiant if you get stopped for a traffic violation. Also: don't let them use your unwillingness to be searched as a pretext to search. Remind them that it's your right not to consent to a search, and that exercising a right doesn't mean they can then violate it. Politely.

Don't say any more than you have to. One trick they might use is asking you the same question a couple of times, a couple of minutes apart. If you lie or are overly elaborate, you're likely to give different answers, and that gets you screwed.

They only have to read your Miranda rights if they are going to question you. If you are arrested and your rights are not read to you, that mostly likely means they are not going to question you. That's it. You can't use that one against them in court.

Anecdote: The guy was a young homicide cop who got a call about a murder. He was the first one to the scene, and when he got there he found a body and a guy sitting nearby with a gun in reach. The cop grabbed the gun and said "What happened here?" The guy answered: "I shot the son of a bitch."

Was this admissible in court? Yes. It was considered reasonable for the officer to ask what happened—for all he knew, the guy might have been another potential victim. The guy in retrospect would have wanted to answer something like "I don't know" or "Somebody shot that guy." A "spontaneous declaration" is admissible in court. So don't do it. Don't murder either, of course.

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I agree with "Why?" being

I agree with "Why?" being better than "No."

Both are going to be percieved as hostile by the pig, but at least "Why?" makes him think a second before tazering your resistant ass out of the car and introducing your neck to his heel.

As the son of a career law

As the son of a career law enforcement officer, I can tell you that no matter what stories you may have heard, an officer can never use your "no" answer as pretext to search. What my father has told me, is that in his 25 years experience, nearly every time someone consents to a search, he finds something illegal, mostly drugs.

So the lesson to be learned here is - reverse psychology doesn't work on the cops.

The correct response to a

The correct response to a request for a warrantless search is "Why?". This puts the ball back into the officer's court - you didn't say "No" so he can't use that as an excuse to search, and he now needs to articulate a valid reason for wanting to search your car. It usually isn't worth his time.

doinkicarus - my response

doinkicarus - my response comes from a retired Oakland policeman who also teaches handgun use. He includes this response as a part of his course. Since the laws in many municipalities in CA are quite rigid with regards to weapons, he spends a considerable amount of time dealing with legal and practical issues WRT transporting weapons. The reality here is that if you are stopped and searched, the odds of you never seeing your handgun again are very high, even if you did everthing perfectly legally.