Know Your Rights: Talking to Police

There is no doubt that we are seeing the beginning of the Police State here in the United States. Local law enforcement agencies are acquiring tanks, MRAPs, drones and other military hardware. It can be argued that these weapons are used to fight enemies over seas, so who is the enemy when they are used domestically? That’s right, you and me. If you don’t believe me, just consider the fact that you are now 8 times more likely to be killed by a cop than a terrorist. An encounter with police can be a deadly encounter if you don’t know your rights.

Film/Document Your Encounter:
Always try to remember to document your police encounter. Filming it is of course the best option. There are many ways to do this. Of course your smart phone has a camera on it but what if the police smash your phone or take it away? That is why I use Bambuser on my phone. It streams video to your bambuser account so they can’t just delete the footage from your phone. I also lock my phone so that they can’t access it to begin with.

If you don’t have the ability to film or you cannot film at the moment, always try to remember the details. Remember what the officer(s) looked like. Try to get their badge numbers or their names. Remember all of those little details and record them down as soon as you can after your encounter. This will help you later should you need these details.

TIP: You have a first amendment right to film a public servant operating in public and performing their public duties; but don’t ever point your camera or phone like a gun. Don’t give them a reason to be overly aggressive with you. The best way to hold your camera, if it is a phone, is low and angled slightly upward. It’s awkward, but it can’t be construed as threatening. If you have a video camera, the best way is to again have it low and angle the viewfinder up so you can make sure you are getting a good shot.

You Don’t Have to Identify Yourself (Know the Law Wherever you Are):
Carrying an ID is really only required when you are driving a vehicle or a passenger on a commercial airline. However, there are states that have stop and identify statutes. You will be in violation of the law and potentially be detained if you don’t identify yourself when prompted (I know, they are bogus laws, but don’t risk getting arrested). Where I live, California, it is not required to show ID to an officer unless they have reasonable suspicion that you are committing a crime. How do you know if they have reasonable suspicion? Ask “Am I being detained?” and “Am I free to go?” If they say you are not being detained, just walk away. If they say yes, ask under what suspicion.

Regardless of where your encounter has gone from here, do not answer any questions. You don’t have to. The 5th Amendment states:

“No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” 

If they ask you were you are heading, politely ask “Am I legally obligated to answer that question officer?” Or simply and respectfully decline to answer.

Final Tips:
First of all, be prepared to get arrested if you film police. Yes you have a constitutional right to film police. Yes you have a constitutional right to not answer questions or identify yourself. The problem is that maybe you encountered officer cranky who just doesn’t give a crap about your rights. You know, because “Obama has decimated the friggin’ constitution, so I don’t give a damn”.

Prepare to have your stuff broken. Again this is why I use Bambuser. They can smash my phone all they want, but the evidence of their over stepping on my rights is already out there.

Always be respectful and never push the officers. They have guns and you don’t. Yeah it’s unfair, but showing their disrespect for the rights of the people they supposedly serve, to any degree, is useful in keeping them accountable.

Adam Kokesh at a DUI Checkpoint.

Another Example of a checkpoint.

A man is stopped by police and drives away.

I don’t answer questions.

A great video by Flex Your Rights.

Police searches.

Police at your door.

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