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Do You Know Your Rights When Dealing With Police?

Check out the brand new redesigned Flex Your Rights website, which is so filled with delicious know-your-rights info and advice that it might even make you wanna go out looking for trouble. Of course, the point is not to embolden you (being cocky is a huge mistake), but rather to provide answers that aren’t available elsewhere and help people heal just a little from the pressure and confusion of living in a nation that jails more of its citizens than any other.

So please take a look and share it with friends and family. This is your first -- and sometimes only -- line of defense.
Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Something's wrong

Something's wrong when peaceful. law-abiding people need advice on how to survive police encounters. Something's wrong when peaceful, law-abiding people are required to carry ID when walking their dogs around the neighborhood or walking to the store 1/2 mile away.

And something's wrong when you advise people that they can refuse to allow the police to search their vehicles. In Arizona, at least, refusal to allow a search gives the police probable cause to do so. Refusal to allow a search results in either (a) Being detained by the highway for hours, until the K-9 Unit arrives, or (b) Being arrested on some bogus charge, which gives cops an excuse to impound your vehicle. Even if you get out of jail the next morning, a vehicle impounded, for most of us mere mortals, means a vehicle lost. And good luck finding an attorney at any price who will fight for what's right.

Something's definitely wrong

When people post things such as Lisa did. keep giving in to illegal demands by police and soon you will find yourself without any freedoms. It sometimes takes backbone to demand your Constitutional rights, and many people seem to lack that feature.

Rita, not Lisa

Got the wrong name, sorry; I was commenting on Rita's post, not Lisa's.

Re: Something's wrong


You're severely mistaken. Refusing a search does not create probable cause in Arizona or any other state. Police can legally tell you that your refusal creates probable cause (in order to trick you into giving consent), but they cannot cite your refusal in court as a justification for conducting the search.

U.S. Supreme Court precedent prohibits any state from interpreting the 4th Amendment that way. Police often encourage people to believe that they have such powers, but legally they do not.

Your other concern about police misconduct/false charges etc. is valid, but you're describing a worst case scenario and extrapolating that all citizens may as well waive their most basic constitutional rights. This advice is dangerous and wrong. People who waive their rights get crushed in court. People who assert their rights are far more likely to avoid a search/arrest/conviction.

Check out the Success Stories page on the Flex site and please stop telling people that refusing a search gives police probable cause.

Update: Rita, I'm sorry if my tone sounded harsh. I take this stuff very seriously.

Meanwhile, the ACLU

is busy fighting for the right of one female high-school senior to wear a tuxedo for her yearbook picture.

so police can legally tell you refusal to consent=probable cause

to search, as stated by Scott in reply to Rita, even though they are lying when they say that. I bet that most people don't know that. I knew they can lie about evidence when questioning a suspect, but didn't know they could lie about ground rules for conducting a search. Thanks to Flex Your Rights and for helping to make people aware of their rights.
Even if there's nothing in my car, I don't want cops searching it because there's no guarantee there won't be anything it in when they get done.

Okay, you guys

I've been called a LOT of things in my 56 years, but "without a backbone" is definitely a first. In fact, most people who know me say I'm mostly TOO stubborn for my own good.

I KNOW my constitutional rights. It's all right there on paper. I also know how cops operate, which apparently none of YOU do. My daughter, right now, is close to the end of 4 years probation, 6 months of it spent in county jail, because of a marijuana seed found in her boyfriend's car AFTER she refused to consent to a search. Even as she was saying, "NO, you may not," to cop #1, cop #2 was pulling her stuff out of the car.

And when any one of you finds him/herself on the side of a highway, as I did, given a choice between consenting to a search of YOUR vehicle or being arrested and your car impounded (whence it will be searched anyway), let me know what you decide. And next time it happens to me, can I borrow your car? And can I have your phone number, so I can call you from jail and YOU can call my employer? Because I'm pretty sure they don't accept collect calls from correctional facilities, and one no-call, no-show is enough to get me fired. I've been there, done that; you're talking theories; I'm talking about reality.

Oh, and Scott?

Cops lie under oath all the time. They lie on affadavits, they lie on police reporrts, they lie in court. No, they CAN'T cite refusal to consent as a reason to search; they don't HAVE to. All they have to do is say that you were "acting suspiciously." In Arizona, driving on the Interstate with out-of-state tags is sufficient.

A 26-year-old man I know was recently gunned down by a Chino Valley cop because the brave officer THOUGHT that the man MIGHT have had a gun. (He didn't) Jonathan Ayers was murdered by 2 cops in Georgia because they, the cops, not Ayers, had bought cocaine. Please do NOT tell me what cops can and can't do. They do as they damn well please, and I, for one, think there's something very, very wrong in a society where the populace has to be taught how to survive encounters with those sworn, trusted and paid to protect us.

Cops do as they please

The HPD officers do as they see fit,bend the rules to fit the situation and lie as easily as they blink their eyes.  I for one am sick and tired of it.  Police officers take an oath to serve and protect our community and its citizens not to mame, steal, harass, KILL, lie to us.  They think they are above reproach because they walk around with a badge pinned to their chest, its sickening.  They curse citizens and in the same breath they demand our respect.  It takes more than wearing that badge to get peoples respect.  Its a sad day when we have to teach our children and grand children to fear the people WE PAY to protect us.  If your rights have been violated by HPD please come forward together we can stand strong.


You just seem like everyone is out to get you.

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