Know Your Rights Before Going to Summer Camp

Police are highly trained at what they do. Police are given special classes, designed to educate them on things like how to interrogate someone without making it seem like a real interrogation, so it seems like they're your friend. Police are educated on how far they can go, on where the line is, so they can go right up against it. Your best defense is educating yourself on what your rights are.

Do I Have to Allow Police to Search if Asked?

No. To use a law enforcement phrase, "Just say no." It's that easy. At Summer Camp, the rules of attendance require you, however, to consent to allow security at Summer Camp to search your person and your vehicle. However, many of the Summer Camp related arrests occur outside of the venue itself when people are stopped on their way to or while coming from the event. Under these circumstances, you do not have to consent to a search of yourself, your bag, your car, or even your home for that matter.

It is important to note that you cannot stop a police officer from searching you, your car, or your home if that officer has independent probable cause to believe that a crime has occurred, is occurring, or will occur, or if that officer has a warrant to search. Trying to stop police from searching means you could be charged with a crime, but there is no crime in denying police consent to search when they ask you for it.

If I Deny Consent to Search, Does that Give Police Probable Cause to Search?

No. Sometimes police will already have probable cause, and still ask someone for consent to search. There's nothing wrong with this practice, even if it is a bit sophomoric. But if the police do not have probable cause to search, ask you for consent, and you do not, you have not given them probable cause to search. You are exercising your rights. An exercise of your rights only means you're smarter than 99% of the people police deal with, and that's it.

What Do I Do When the Police Ask Me Why I'm Not Consenting to a Search?

Tell the truth: explain that you don't want someone's hands all over you, or that you don't want to sit on the side of the road, or that you are a private person. You are not required to give them an explanation. In the end, you could simply say, "because I'm exercising my rights not to consent to a search."

Once you give consent to search, they can search anywhere and everywhere. So, if you do give consent, limit the area they can search. If you give police limited consent to search a single area of, for example, your car, the officer can go beyond that area only if he or she finds evidence of a crime or gathers other probable cause, such as smelling cannabis - or "weed" - once they're in whatever area you said they could search.

Be prepared, because they will press you after you deny them consent to search. They'll ask you questions like whether or not you have something to hide, and, if you don't have something to hide, why you mind them searching so much. Remember, they're trained to ask questions like these to get you to consent to a search, but make your decision not to consent and stick to it.

Do I Have to Talk to Police?

No. The hardest thing about being an aggressive criminal defense firm is when we know we could beat a case, but our client confessed to police. Keep in mind one rule when dealing with police: they're probably only talking to you because you're a "suspect" in their mind.

If a police officer stops you for speeding or some other traffic violation, then starts asking you questions about drugs, you can pretty much assume that officer suspects you of having drugs. Likewise, if you find yourself at the police station in an interrogation room, chances are it's not because the police "only want to chat," like they're fond of telling people. Similarly, if you're at Summer Camp, and a police officer stops you just to "talk," it's likely not because the officer likes your taste in fashion.

You will never talk yourself out of something. You have the right to remain silent, so use it, and don't be afraid to do so. That said, keep reading, because your right to remain silent is not absolute.

So What Do I Say if the Police Want to Talk to Me?

If you only have casual contact with police, simply tell the officer you don't want to talk.

If you've been read your Miranda rights (like you see on TV), then you're being interrogated. Under these circumstances, tell the police officer you don't want to talk and that you want an attorney.

This last part is especially important. Just saying you don't want to talk doesn't mean they have to stop talking to you, but when you say clearly and unequivocally you want an attorney, they must stop asking you questions.

Caution: You Can Be Arrested For Resisting or Obstructing a Police Officer

Many people have heard of "Resisting" before, but few know what it means or that the same statute also makes it a crime to obstruct a police officer. The offense of Resisting or Obstructing a police officer only requires: that you know the person is a police officer (he doesn't have to be in uniform, and even an officer just identifying himself can be enough); that you resist or obstruct an act of the officer; and that the act by the officer be one that he's authorized to perform. It's a Class A misdemeanor offense, but it's one for which you can sit in jail a long time.

As a result, there are things that a person can and cannot do when interacting with police. For example, by law, you have to cooperate to a certain extent with that officer's instructions, or else you could be arrested for not complying with those instructions. In other words, if asked to give the officer identification or your name and date of birth, you should do so, or you could be arrested. Similarly, you have to furnish true information. Providing a false name to a police officer is also an offense for which you could go to jail. Likewise, running away or pulling away while being handcuffed are also things for which you could be arrested. It's important to note here that courts have ruled that a person cannot resist arrest, so refusing to put your arms behind your back when you're already under arrest, for example, is a new offense for which you can go to jail.

Police arrest a lot of people for Resisting/Obstructing, and they're fond of the charge. Police know that in a trial for the offense, it's their word vs. yours. They'll be ready to testify, having done it countless times before, and I guarantee you they'll be in uniform with badge polished.

Bottom line: when dealing with police, be respectful, answer reasonable questions, like giving police your name and date of birth, but know and - more importantly - exercise your rights. If you do this, you'll be able to have fun at Summer Camp and go home to your family, but, even if you are arrested, you'll have exercised your rights so an aggressive firm like Johnson Law Group can get to work.

Written by Attorney
Brendan Bukalski, Esq.
Partner, Johnson Law Group
May 17, 2016

The issues discussed in this column are general in nature, and should not be relied upon as legal advice or interpreted as creating an attorney-client relationship. As a general rule, all specific legal problems should be handled by an individual's personal attorney.
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