I bet you view yourself as a good person. In truth, you probably are a good person. Maybe even a great person. Honest, usually trustworthy, mostly moral. And why not, society works because most of us just really aren’t that bad.
But being a good person is not the same thing as being a not guilty person. And in this day and age, being not guilty is the most important thing you can be.
Notice I didn’t say innocent. Innocent people are often guilty. And not innocent people are often not guilty. There is no correlation between innocence and guilt in a court of law.
And when it comes to staying not guilty, there is one thing you can do that is far more likely to increase your chance of a either never facing a jury or, if you do, hearing two words instead of one after a trial.
I’m completely serious. I don’t care how sweet your tongue is with the opposite sex, it is worthless when it comes to the police. I don’t care how clever you are, you aren’t clever enough when it comes to the police. You are an amateur, they are the professionals, and you will loose if you open your mouth. So don’t. Shut it.
Well, not completely. According to the Supreme Court of the United States, you must express that you are exercising your right to remain silent. It is a right you must assert, and you don’t want to sit still and just be silent with the police. That might end you up in jail. So shut the hell up, right after you repeatedly tell the police you’re shutting the hell up.
The other part, is do it nicely. So while you want to shut the hell up, you need to say it in very polite and non-threatening tones along the lines of “I don’t answer questions from the police without my lawyer.” And keep saying it, as your only answer to any question.
Will this method of dealing with the police keep you from getting arrested? No, it will not. But, if you get arrested while exerting your rights, you were going to get arrested anyway. Remember, we started this conversation on the assumption that you are a good person, so you didn’t just get stopped for running a red light with a dead body in your back seat with a quarter ton of pot next to it. You’re getting arrested at that point, and nothing about you shutting up will prevent that.
But if you HAVEN’T done anything wrong, if you shut up you may still get arrested. But, the likelihood of you getting arrested is no higher than if you talk. To stop and talk to you, all an officer must have is reasonable articulated suspicion (RAS). RAS is easy to arrive at, so basically an officer can stop and ask you questions pretty much any time they like. Even if they don’t have RAS, they can still ask you questions. The difference between having RAS and not having RAS is if you’re free to go.
Without RAS, the police can not detain you. If you are asked a question by the police and instead of directly answering the question, you ask if you’re being detained and they say you are not, then you can walk away. Don’t. Ask if you are free to go. If they say you are not free to go, then you need to shut the hell up. Don’t argue. Don’t try to be a lawyer, which you’re not (and neither am I) and prove they are doing something wrong on the street. Just shut up. Don’t say anything but “I’ve been advised by my lawyer to not answer police questions without him” and “Am I free to go.”
If the officer tells you you are free to go, then go. Get the heck out of there and don’t look back. If he tells you you are not free to go, ignores the questions or in any way attempts to continue the conversation assume you are being detained and say nothing. (Nothing equals asserting that you’re not saying anything) There is only one other thing that you should say to a police officer other than “am I free to go” and “I’m asserting my 5th Amendment rights.” And that’s “I do not consent to a search.”
Again, none of this is going to keep you from getting arrested or being searched. If you are arrest, do not resist in any way. So much as accidentally touching a cop can become resisting arrest or assault. Do nothing, follow every order (lawful or not). Just submit. You can’t win in a physical confrontation with the police. YOU CAN NOT BLOCK THE POLICE.
Instead, you are doing your best to set things up for the only place you CAN beat the police, and that’s in court. If they overstep their legal bounds, your lawyer will be working to get things dismissed and suppressed. Lawyers can’t do that if you spill all the beans and gladly give the police the right to search you, your car, and your house. So help your lawyer out, and shut the hell up.
One thing I purposely avoid in this article is the issue of Identification. Rules and laws on who has to have identification and who must present identification vary from state to state… and very greatly. In Alabama, once you’re detained you generally have to provide your name, address and birthday to the police. They can ask you where you are going or what your intentions are, and you have to answer. You can be vague, and I’d be more and more vague. “Walking, driving, out and about” is what you’re doing. Follow up questions are “On the advise of my lawyer, I’m taking the 5th.”