"I do not consent to a search; Am I free to go?; I want a lawyer."

B. Wyze

Disclaimer: I'm not a lawyer; I'm one of you. What I write here is the best information that I've gleaned so far, and I'm prepared to use it myself. These are my best suggestions, and do not constitute legal advice. Check it out with your lawyer or a good second-year law student or better, and then mass copy it for all of your friends! Let us know what you find out, what your experiences are, and your ideas, so we can keep this up-to-date and make it even better. This is the front line of defense in the War on Drug Users.

What it is: Cops love to play word games, and they're good at it. They're also good at taking control and being the boss, or coming on like they're your parents or something. They know that you have rights, but they're betting that you don't know what they are. Watch your ass! Many people get busted by falling into their traps, or by not realizing that the cop is trying to get you to give up your rights ... so don't let them get away with it! One lawyer said that 99% of the people in jail talked themselves into it.

Some of their cute little tricks: "May we search you? No. Why, got something to hide?", or "Look, can I go? Not yet. Why, am I under arrest? Would you like to be?" Rather than keeping this sort of bullshit going, or trying to outwit them, it's just better not to play that kind of game. Keep in mind that if you lie to a cop and they can prove it later, that's one more thing you can be charged with ... so don't tell them anything one way or another! (One lawyer did say "Admit nothing, deny everything, and demand a lawyer", so maybe you can lie to a cop since you're not under oath, but it seems more prudent just to keep quiet.) Sometimes they'll threaten "Look, we can go get a warrant anytime, so you'd better let us in", but what that really means is "We tried everything, but couldn't get one. Please let us in so we can bust you." Well ... just say "No." Tell them to go get that warrant. Sometimes they'll say "A friend of yours ratted you out and told us everything. You know the guy, (insert name here)." This is a fishhook ... don't bite! And don't believe them! They're probably trying to get you to "retaliate" and to spill the beans about your friend ... who will be next on their pickup list because of what you just said.

Best case scenario: They detain you for a non-drug reason, such as a broken car light, a traffic violation, stereo too loud, etc. It's best to play along as "the good citizen" and to be courteous. If you totally get into their game and promise to take care of it, at most they'll write you a ticket, admonish you, and then let you go. Take the lumps! Express remorse! It works. If they go too far (like trying to search you or your property), then dig in your heels and exercise your rights. Read on.

Your rights: You have the right to refuse to let them into your home if they don't have a warrant (4th Amendment). You can refuse to consent to a search (4th Amendment), but you can't physically stop them. You can remain silent (5th Amendment), although it is often advisable to give them your name, address, and age. You have the right to have your attorney with you while they question you (5th Amendment, I think). You have the right not to sign anything they give you, except for a ticket. Do not make a statement!

Their "rights": They can briefly do a pat-down search on the outside of your clothing and check-out suspicious lumps that feel hard and bulky ... they want to make sure that you don't have a concealed weapon (but you should say "I don't consent to being searched" anyway to cover yourself, and you shouldn't carry anything incriminating in that same pocket!). They can and will ask you everything under the sun (freedom of speech you know). If you blow it by: answering their questions, letting them into your house, or consenting to a search, then they gotcha cold ... so don't do it! They don't have to read you your rights if you're not under arrest, so you'd better know what they are. They can briefly detain you for various purposes, but they can't hold you unless you're under arrest (If you ask "Am I free to go?", and they say no, ask "Why not?" or "What is the law that allows you to hold me?" or "I'm not under arrest, yet you've said I can't leave ... please clarify my legal status at this time."). If you try to physically resist them or to run away from them, then they have the right to use force against you ... even if you're clean and have done nothing wrong! So ... keep calm and be cool, they've got the deck stacked in their favor and they know it.

Reasonable Suspicion: Allows them to look briefly, but not to search.

Probable Cause: Having some kind of evidence against you, such as: a certain smell, an anonymous phone call about you, or seeing a joint lying on your living room table. Refusal to allow a search is not probable cause ... if it were, then they could search you no matter what answer you give, which is totally against the US Constitution (4th Amendment).

At home: If they knock on your door to "ask you a few questions," then either talk through the closed door or quickly step outside and lock your door behind you. This serves two purposes: One, do not give them an opportunity to look inside ... if they see something, that's probable cause. Two, if they want to conduct an illegal search, then they'll have to break down your door to do so. Then you can use the broken pieces as evidence against them, whereas if there are no broken pieces, then they will claim that you let them in voluntarily. If they drag on their "question" thing too long, keep asking "Am I free to go?" until they give you a definite answer. If they have a warrant, then tell them they can't start their search until your lawyer arrives to witness it, and then get that lawyer over real quick! During the search, have everyone sit together and instruct them to say absolutely nothing. If the cops ask you to do something, then you may politely tell them "Unless you are ordering me to do that at this time, I refuse. Are you ordering me to do that?" If they say yes, then you can ask "What law says that you can order me to do that?" If they can't answer, then don't do it. If they try to force you at that point, do not resist, and state "I'm not doing this voluntarily, but under protest and duress." Remember your witnesses.

On the road: If you get pulled over, it may be best to grab your license and registration, get out of the car, lock the door behind you, and walk to the area between the two cars, and get ready to play the Good Citizen Game. Be friendly, but not "too" friendly, be at ease, and talk to the person behind the badge. That way you're totally covered, they won't have an easy excuse to look through your windows, and they'll think that you're an average citizen ready to be admonished for some minor traffic violation. If they do decide to search your car, then they will do so, since apparently they don't need a search warrant if they have probable cause ... so fer Chrisake don't keep a joint sitting in your ashtray! Of course, you should tell them "I do not consent to a search", just so you're covered. When they ask why you're refusing their search, and if you feel you gotta say something, then say "I've been advised by an attorney never to consent to a search." It's magic.

In public: If they want to search you, then say "I do not consent to being searched." Always be clear about this, try to involve witnesses, and never physically resist. If you ever try to resist, then they will use force... they always do. So, be relaxed, move slowly, and keep your hands out where they can see them.

Tight situation: They conduct a search without your consent, and find something. Almost anything you say at that point will hurt you. The best thing you can do, and it is your Constitutional right, is to say "I want a lawyer" and then keep your trap shut 'til you get one! Don't answer any of their questions (except name, address, and age) if your lawyer isn't with you.

Worst case scenario: It's 3:30 am, ten cops break down your door and they're yelling and pointing their guns at you ... freeze! Do not move a muscle, and keep absolutely quiet for at least a count of 3! They'll frisk you and start to tear your place apart. When they know you're unarmed, then ask "Do you have a warrant? I do not consent to a search." If they do have one, then read it and make damn sure that they can legally do what they're doing. If the warrant doesn't specify what they're doing right now, then say so and insist that they stop (but don't try to physically stop them!). If they do not have a warrant, then tell them that they must leave. If they don't, then call the State Police (237-7232) and FBI (231-1122), and report an incident of trespass by the local police and ask them to come and remove them. Get your lawyer there as quickly as possible, if you can, and remember that the more witnesses you have, the better ... there's always your neighbors! If the cops arrest you, then they must give you a receipt for everything they confiscate (wallet, clothing, packages, etc.), so I would think that they must also give you one for whatever they take during the search.

If they arrest you: Ask "Why am I under arrest?". They have to tell you. After they book you, demand your two phone calls, at your expense: first to an attorney, relative or employer, and second to a bailbondsman. If you can't afford a lawyer, then demand that they provide you with one at no expense. Do not let your lawyer enter a plea of "not guilty" before the arraignment (the first trip to court where you will be formally charged, which by law has to occur within 48 hours of your arrest, barring holidays and Sundays), because that would automatically lock you into criminal proceedings, which is where your dear lawyer will try to make his/her money. You should try like hell to get your case dismissed before that arraignment! Your lawyer knows what to do, and if s/he won't do it, then get one who will. If you can't get it dismissed, then enter your "not guilty" plea at the arraignment and insist on a jury trial, which will be expensive and difficult for the DA. Do not let your lawyer waive the speedy trial time limits! (Which s/he might try to do so they can charge you more money for "preparation," etc.) You don't want the prosecution to have all the time in the world to build their case against you! If you are adamant about all that, and if their case isn't strong, then they might actually drop it! What the hell, it's worth a shot! If your case does go to trial, then try like hell to get that jury informed about their inherent right to judge the law itself, and to nullify it by letting you go, if they think it's not fair or is totally ridiculous (like forcing you to go to prison for a year for having 1.5 ounces of pot, or some equally obnoxious law).

Drills: Knowing what to say and do is great, but it's even better if you get together with your friends and practice on each other, preferably in at least two frames of mind. That way, if you're one on one with a cop, you'll be ready to handle the situation.

Additional materials: "If You Are Arrested" wallet-sized card (ACLU, 633 South Shatto Place, L.A., CA 90005); "Officer, Please Understand ..." wallet-sized card (People Against Police Brutality, 1380 Garnet Ave., Suite E-98, San Diego CA 92109, 271-9391 or 281-1066); Fully Informed Jury Association (local rep: Jim Lorenz, San Diego, CA, 282-4778).

How you can help fight: Register to vote (preferably in a sympathetic group such as the Libertarian Party, which supports the legalization of drugs), for then you become eligible to serve on a jury and to use your right of nullification to free a brother or sister. Join NORML and get wise! Copy this pamphlet, give it to your friends, and help spread this, our only means of defense. And, most of all, be a good and conscientious person ... nothing is more devastating to the "War on Druggie" types than to show the world that these assholes are persecuting some of the best people. Make 'em think.

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