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We Support NYPD's Plan to Use Written Consent Forms

Since many of you may be skeptical of NYPD when it comes to matters of search and seizure, I'd like to clarify that this is a very good thing:

The New York City Police Department wants suspects to sign a consent form before searching their homes or cars, a move that eliminates the need for a warrant and is meant to provide police a layer of legal protection, Newsday has learned.

The initiative was put in place because consent searches are often challenged at trial - and jurors too often believe the suspect's claim that police never got permission to conduct the search, police sources said.

At the same time, sources said, there has been concern within the NYPD about a handful of cases in which an officer's truthfulness was recently called into question. [Newsday]

Written consent policies are a win-win situation for police and the public. When consent is given in writing, police have an easier time demonstrating in court that consent was given voluntarily. Since evidence seized during a consent search is almost always legally admissible, defendants challenging such evidence must argue that consent was given involuntarily or not at all. As a result, police spend a considerable amount of time in court defending the manner in which consent was obtained. A written form goes a long way towards resolving such conflicts.

For the citizen, written consent provides a quick reminder that permitting searches is optional, while simultaneously creating an added layer of protection in disputes over whether consent was given voluntarily. The form will go a long way towards resolving widespread concerns about police erroneously claiming to have received consent before conducting a search.

Finally, there's an additional important point illustrated here. As Newsday reports, "jurors too often believe the suspect's claim that police never got permission to conduct the search, police sources said." For anyone questioning the viability of refusing consent during a police encounter, this should go a long way towards explaining how asserting 4th Amendment rights can help citizens achieve a more desirable outcome. It serves as a helpful reminder that, even if police violate your rights and search despite your refusal, any evidence they discover can be effectively challenged in court. Obviously, this is a frequent occurrence if NYPD cites such outcomes as a reason for moving towards a written consent policy.

Given the significance of the citizen's decision whether or not to permit police to look through his/her belongings, a written form is just the obvious, common sense approach to establishing whether consent was given.

Update: Pete Guither at DrugWarRant has a good post discussing the NYPD policy and explaining why it is never in the citizen's interest to consent to a police search.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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This is Huge

The element of intimidation and of inflcting confusion in people is perhaps the worst thing about police stopping you, and is the most difficult thing to deal with when trying to assert your 4th amenment rights. With this, everything is relaxed and clear; just refuse to sign it.

People defending themselves in court over and over paid off big time. Finally! This is the way searches are supposed to be done.

Am I missing something?

Umm, just wondering... If the police will now bully you into agreeing to a search without a warrant, why wouldn't they just bully you into signing the consent form? As I see it, it's just protecting their asses, not anyone else's.

Instead of "Sir, you may refuse this search of sign this paper," we all know it will be closer to, "Sir, just sign this paper. If you don't you will be held here until we can get a warrant. Then, we'll make your life a living hell for making us do our job the correct way."

It's an additional layer of protection

Of course, police will still bully people and it will still be up to the citizen to have the presence of mind not to waive their 4th amendment rights. But if valid consent is based on a signature, rather than the dubious testimony of a police officer, that's gonna help a lot of people better assert their rights.

This is not new

The city and county of St Louis, MO do this and abuse this all the time. I know this for a fact, as I was on the receiving end of one of these "voluntary" allow to search forms. When the cops showed up at my motel room door and asked me to search my room, I said no. They told me in no uncertain terms, that since my room mate was busted with drugs, and chemicals to make drugs, and they had found the keys to my room on him, that they had the "legal" right to search. They searched, and found drugs in my room mates belongings. After the search, the cops found out the room was in my name, so they sat me down in front of one of these forms and told me to sign it. When I refused, they beat me until I capitulated and signed the form to stop the beating. They then charged me with possession for the drugs found in my room.
Subsequently, I spent 9 months in jail fighting these unlawful charges. I finally gave up and agreed to an Alford plea, (basically a no contest plea), and was released.
So you see, this is not new. The drug Nazi's will do anything they want to legitimize their unlawful activities, and they get away with it. This is mainly due to the fact that normal everyday people like me can only fight for so long before the Nazi's wear them down.

Brian J. Branch
Effingham, Il

Even written consent forms can be declared involuntary....

Sure, getting something in writing can be considered as "harder" evidence. However using two words can void the assumption of something being given voluntarily. Using the words "Under Duress" will do just that.

Why those words? The phrase "Under Duress" in short means you are being intimidated to do something or feel intimidated to do something.

When to use the phrase in above your signature? Use the phrase when ever you are facing a situation you would rather not be in. (IE: Being given a consent form to sign or a citation for any "Traffic" violation, or anytime you are being forced to do something you normally would not consent to doing.)

To whom ever willing and anyone wanting to somehow reserve rights do some research on Universal Commercial Code 1-308 (UCC 1-308)

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