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Just Cause Law Collective
August 23, 2004 9:57 AM   Subscribe

The Just Cause Law Collective is an excellent resource for outlining what your rights as citizens or non-citizens are within the U.S. in text and illustrations that are understandable by the layperson. It also includes advice on how to survive police encounters and a special section for activists. via BoingBoing
posted by substrate (22 comments total)

 
[sarcasm]

Gee, those portrayals of police weren't biased or inflammatory in the least

[/sarcasm]
posted by jonmc at 10:22 AM on August 23, 2004


MAD PROPZ 2 THA LIBERTARIAN THINK TANX!

On a more serious note, advice like this is more likely to get your ass in jail than out. You'll be arrested on suspicion of [insert dubious reason here that won't get the officer fired].

If you don't want to annoy the officer (a smart idea), but don't want to talk, either just say "I really don't want to talk about it", or, better yet, "Well, yeah, but you know, I'm in a rush, can we discuss this later?". *DON'T* try to get fresh with a police officer. Repeating "AM I FREE TO GO?" will get you a laugh spot on COPS while you keep repeating it from the back of a police car. Anyone here recall "FALSE ARREST!" man?

Here's some more free advice: If you are REALLY nice with an officer they tend to get confused. If they're writing tickets, etc, there's a good chance they'll muck it up and you might get off the charge. If you're a jerk they'll triple check it for errors before you get it. Just don't be so nice you admit to charges. Words like "Okay", or "I'm not sure" are smooth, they don't annoy the officer, and don't get you busted.

As far as asking for a lawyer, yes, that's good advice. Just, again, don't be an idiot about it. There's no reason you shouldn't tell the officers your name, address, phone number, give them your finger prints, or let them know where you work. If you do those things you are going to make your life much easier. Oh, and you won't look like a moron in front of a judge.

How do I know people that lie/refuse to give info look like morons? I GOT THE PLEASURE OF SITTING IN A COURTROOM LAST WEEK. The judge wasn't impressed by the guy that lied to the officers about his name and address in the slightest bit. By the way, if you're in AA, I can make you stop drinking: Go to court for a day. You'll become dry as a bone.
posted by shepd at 10:25 AM on August 23, 2004


On a more serious note, advice like this is more likely to get your ass in jail than out.

This site is for My First Protest ™ kiddies. As far as the advice goes there's very little on here that you couldn't learn from watching a few dragnet reruns.
posted by jonmc at 10:30 AM on August 23, 2004


Par for course metafilter snarkiness aside...
(*cough* jonmc)

I found it very interesting and informative. I've been wanting a site like this.

Guess I need to go catch up on my dragnet reruns.
posted by Espoo2 at 11:11 AM on August 23, 2004


jonmc and shepd: I think you're missing the point. The techniques won't save you from a night in jail, but they might save you from prison time. The advice they give is solid:

If an officer tries to start a conversation with you, find out whether you’re free to go.  If you are, then you should leave immediately, without saying anything else.

"Biased or inflammatory" is not the point. The police officers are trained to collect evidence, and everything they say to you is an attempt to extract it. If you understand that, it's easy to stop treating them like judge and jury. You don't have to hate them or consider them an adversary: just don't give them anything to use against you.
posted by letitrain at 11:14 AM on August 23, 2004


If an officer tries to start a conversation with you, find out whether you’re free to go. If you are, then you should leave immediately, without saying anything else.

That's a wonderful attitude. Let's hope all crime witnesses take that tack and the world will be a much better place. That attitude assumes that a cop approaching you to ask a question is up to no good.

And if there's a person on earth who hasn't heard the Miranda warning at this point or has and still dosen't get it, I have to ask, what part of "you have the right to remain silent," don't you understand?
posted by jonmc at 11:29 AM on August 23, 2004


dealing with police isn't too hard.

rule 1. Shut up
rule 2. Deny everything
posted by bob sarabia at 11:50 AM on August 23, 2004


That attitude assumes that a cop approaching you to ask a question is up to no good.

Maybe they are, maybe they aren't. You won't know until it's too late. Why risk it?
posted by Mars Saxman at 11:59 AM on August 23, 2004


>The techniques won't save you from a night in jail, but they might save you from prison time.

"Your honour, the defandant spent his entire time asking if he was free to go. I ask the jury: Do those sound like the actions of a man who doesn't consider himself guilty? Why does he ask if he were free to go, did he think he should be arrested, and wanted to check if he was already or not? As a free man myself, I never have to ask to leave. I just do it because I know I'm not guilty of any crimes. How many of you will be asking the baliff tonight if you're "free to leave"? Yes, none of you. I thought so. Because I know you're not guilty of any crimes."

>The police officers are trained to collect evidence, and everything they say to you is an attempt to extract it.

Yes. Sometimes talking to them is helpful to everyone. For example, if you're a witness, blabbing to them might help keep a murderer off the streets.

Officers are very detailed in their notes. Remember this when talking to them and you can actually tailor their notes (and, if you're lucky, ticket) to help you. I should show you the notes the officer took last time they tried to ticket me. The crown was so unhappy when they read those notes they told me they had a sit-down with the police officer to ask them why they messed up so badly. Did I mention the crown didn't even bother to fight the case in court? The officer couldn't prove I was following too close because they didn't witness it personally, and I admitted to "looking at my dashboard too long", which isn't a crime.

All that because I didn't treat the officer like an asshole.
posted by shepd at 12:01 PM on August 23, 2004


Maybe they are, maybe they aren't. You won't know until it's too late. Why risk it?

Because sometimes, like if you were the witness to a crime for instance, telling the police what you know is in the best interests of society, perhaps?
posted by jonmc at 12:08 PM on August 23, 2004


rule 1. Shut up
rule 2. Deny everything


rule 3. Don't be in Miami
posted by homunculus at 12:27 PM on August 23, 2004


Homunculus, police officers are just human. If you intend to piss them off (check), and they act irrationally (check), congrats, you've just proven that they're not robots.

How about a throwing in a Rodney King beating for great justice !!?
posted by shepd at 2:17 PM on August 23, 2004


"Your honour, the defandant spent his entire time asking if he was free to go. I ask the jury: Do those sound like the actions of a man who doesn't consider himself guilty? Why does he ask if he were free to go, did he think he should be arrested, and wanted to check if he was already or not? As a free man myself, I never have to ask to leave. I just do it because I know I'm not guilty of any crimes. How many of you will be asking the baliff tonight if you're "free to leave"? Yes, none of you. I thought so. Because I know you're not guilty of any crimes."

The prosecutor that presented that ridiculous argument would be laughed out of court. When a police officer starts asking questions, you have every right to know if you are being detained or arrested. "Am I free to go?" answers that without ambiguity.
posted by letitrain at 2:45 PM on August 23, 2004


This site is for My First Protest ™ kiddies. As far as the advice goes there's very little on here that you couldn't learn from watching a few dragnet reruns.

You might think so... but just the advice in this quiz would have saved me a whole lot of trouble when I got busted for weed as a teenager.

I know better now, but it would have been optimal if I'd known better then. If this site keeps even one person from being busted on drug charges, it's more than worth it.
posted by vorfeed at 2:56 PM on August 23, 2004


Why You Should Remain Silent and Ask to See a Lawyer Even if You're Innocent

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the officer who’s interviewing you is acting as an impartial judge, sorting out who’s naughty and who’s nice. The officer is building a case. That’s his job. And if you answer questions, you’re giving the officer building materials to construct a case against you. Contrary to popular opinion, truth is not your shield—at least not when you’re being questioned and arrested. The time to “explain everything” is when you’ve got your attorney with you, so you can be sure you won’t be misled, misunderstood or misquoted.
posted by letitrain at 3:11 PM on August 23, 2004


>The prosecutor that presented that ridiculous argument would be laughed out of court.

The same way that the defence saying "If the glove don't fit, you must acquit!" should get him thrown out? I doubt there's *any* reason a prosecutor can get thrown out for what he says during his closing remarks. And it's not the judge convicting, it's the jury. Juries are fickle.

vorfeed, thanks for showing me that quiz. It's just further proof that site is run by crazies.

You can't talk to a police officer about sports and such? Please....

If you’re arrested and you admit to the police what you’ve done wrong, you’ll usually get a better deal in court.

False? Get with it. That's only false for things like traffic tickets, and that's only in certain places (Ontario, for example, where you don't pay court fees for losing in court).

OF COURSE, that being said, you'd be a fool to confess without discussing it with a lawyer. He'll force the deal from the prosecution, whereas without one, yeah, you're screwed.

These people need to spend a few hours in a court room and see what works/doesn't work.

If an officer asks to see what’s in your pockets or backpack, and you say “No,” the officer can use your refusal as an excuse to search.

BZZZZT! Ask a real police officer that one. Here's the two scenarios:

- You get to sit in the police station for a few hours until the police get a search warrant. Which they will get, virtually guaranteed. What fun. You just wasted a few hours of your life. And then, if you are innocent, you get to tell all your friends you got to sit about in a police station for no reason rather than going to their party. YAY.
- You don't refuse properly, and the officer uses your refusal as evidence of suspicion of [drugs, booze, illegal gambling, whatever] and does the search. OH YAY. Another waste of everyone's time.

That being said, what the hell, why not refuse anyways and see if the officer lets you go. If he starts hauling you to the station, you may as well change your mind.
posted by shepd at 4:12 PM on August 23, 2004


By the way, if you're in AA, I can make you stop drinking: Go to court for a day. You'll become dry as a bone.

clearly you haven't the faintest clue about alcoholism.
posted by quonsar at 4:19 PM on August 23, 2004


I think the real problem is that apparently, enough people are having trouble being railroaded by somewhat zealous - if overtly professional - police officers who tend to view any suspect as guilty. It can be argued that this is their job, but I've seen plenty of "bad cops" going too far in suspecting innocent people before having enough real evidence to truly suspect them. For instance, about 18 years ago in one town in New Jersey adjacent to where I lived at the time, I used to get pulled over about monthly by the local police because I:

1. Had long hair and was young (20)
2. Drove a big old van with "custom" camper interior
3. Hung out with all the other long haired kids in that town
4. Would often have a bunch of said kids in the van on our way somewhere.

The first time they pulled me over they had a perfectly legitimate reason to stop and cite me - an expired inspection sticker, which is a common problem in NJ, where the very large and plainly visible sticker makes it easy for them to spot that offense. And, if I'd only gotten the ticket for that, there would be no problem. However, they got us all (about 5 people) out of the van, took our IDs, searched the van, and had us all empty all our pockets. There was no reason to do this - there was NEVER any booze or other substances in my van, no odors, no bad driving, and as always I was pleasant and compliant. But they did an illegal search, and got very angry when I asked them why.

That happened several more times over the next 4 or 5 months, with the same officers on two occasions - after I got the van inspected and the sticker fixed - and I wasn't doing anything illegal, no speeding, nothing; I decided to play it totally safe in that town, to no avail. After a while my dad and parents of some of the other people got together and got a lawyer to write a complaint to the Mayor and the police chief of that town; after that they left me alone.

And then there's the time the town cop up from where I lived up in Maine showed up at my best buddy's house saying, and I quote, "Yeah well, we got you now, buddy, you're not gonna get out of this one. I been looking forward to taking you down." The accusation? Passing a bad check. Now, my buddy had never gotten in trouble with the law, never even gotten a speeding ticket in that town... but we went to high school with this now-cop, and my buddy hadn't had a high opinion of him, still didn't, and hadn't ever hidden it. So this guy had a chip on his shoulder, and barged his way in to search the place.

It almost got ugly until he actually produced the check in question; my buddy had signed the check over to another guy, who had changed one of the digits in the "number" area (not the "written out" amount) to try to get I think $3 extra - changing a "5" to an "8" (yeah, pretty stupid). And that was it. The cop hadn't even bothered to look at the back of the check to see who actually cashed it - he only saw my buddy's name and decided to "settle a score" that didn't really exist.

Anyway, I'm going on a bit, sorry. The point is, should the general populace at large expect to have to take extraordinary measures to protect themselves from the police? The Constitution says no. The police, unfortunately, sometimes don't seem to remember that so well. And with their expanded powers in this "time of terror," it can be a lot worse.

All that being said, I find the best thing to do is to not do illegal stuff and stay off their radar. Seems to work pretty well.
posted by zoogleplex at 5:05 PM on August 23, 2004


As US citizen, you have no rights. But don't get me started on that one.
posted by troutfishing at 5:24 PM on August 23, 2004


As US citizen, you have no rights. But don't get me started on that one.

Reminds me of Pulp Fiction:

[VINCENT]: Yeah, it breaks down like this, ok, it's legal to buy it, it's legal to own it, and if you're the proprietor of a hash bar, it's legal to sell it. It's legal to carry it, but...but that dosen't matter, 'cause, get a load of this; all right, if you get stopped by a cop in Amsterdam, it's illegal for them to search you. I mean that's a right the cops in Amsterdam don't have.

[JULES]: Oh, man, I'm goin', that's all there is to it. I'm fuckin' goin'.

[VINCENT]: I know, baby, you'd dig it the most...

[VINCENT]: But you know what the funniest thing about America is?

[JULES]: What?

[VINCENT]: We got the same rights they got there, but here we just don't invoke them.

[JULES]: Example?

[VNCENT]: Alright, when you get pulled over and the cop wants to search you; all you got to say is "I do not consent to you searching me." That's it. I mean that's a right the cops in America don't have.
posted by letitrain at 7:08 PM on August 23, 2004


>I find the best thing to do is to not do illegal stuff and stay off their radar.

Its impossible to "stay off the radar" if youre an activist or protestor, which this site seems to cater to. A lot of the criticisms in this thread about this site, ACLU flyers, police advice, etc are really crap and anyone with a little experience with law enforcement outside of "please dont give me a speeding ticket, sir" knows that value in knowing your rights.
posted by skallas at 9:26 PM on August 23, 2004


If you’re arrested and you admit to the police what you’ve done wrong, you’ll usually get a better deal in court.

False? Get with it. That's only false for things like traffic tickets, and that's only in certain places (Ontario, for example, where you don't pay court fees for losing in court).


No, this is false. This is the exact line that got me busted for pot - the cop had no real evidence, but he told me that if I admitted to what I'd done, I'd get off easy. If I'd known that this was a bald-faced lie at the time, I'd have kept my mouth shut, and I'd never have been arrested.

You can laugh all you want to about your rights, but I'll be keeping mine, and I will use them, even if it does cause trouble for me. I'd rather see the cop have to get a search warrant and arrest me properly, than hand myself over on a platter because it's easier.
posted by vorfeed at 11:44 AM on August 24, 2004


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