Why It’s Crucial to Assert Your Rights in a Police Encounter

November 14th, 2012

Back in the days before the War on Drugs, police officers were best represented by the iconic TV Sheriff Andy Griffith. Since officers had no reason to randomly search citizens then, their presence was universally appreciated. However, changes in the law have caused law enforcers to view harmless citizens as public threats. Certain items have been deemed contraband, and personal healthcare mistakes have been criminalized. Since anyone could in theory be engaging in those activities at any time, police now view all citizens as potential criminals.

Now, any American could be thrown into a time consuming, escalating, and invasive police encounter simply because his or her tail light bulb died during a trip home from work. People who look fatigued, dress in a counter-cultural manner, or belong to certain ethnic groups may be profiled for an intense investigation at any time, and officers often request searches using ambiguous phrasings that lead people to believe that they have no choice but to comply. The below video demonstrates how a citizen can politely assert his or her natural rights during a police encounter. Let’s talk about why it’s important to reserve your rights, even if you have nothing to hide.

Having “Nothing to Hide” Is No Excuse to Waive Your Rights

First of all, when an officer asks to search your vehicle, you should expect to be there for a while. Depending on the intensity of the search, which is up to officer discretion in some ways, your property could end up getting damaged. People have had their laptops broken, upholstery torn apart, and other incidents of property destruction during unnecessary vehicle searches.

Also, some officers forget what the rules are in a police encounter since so few citizens will assert their rights. When policemen break their own rules, serious criminals like murderers and thieves are sometimes able to have damning evidence thrown out by lawyers due to improper procedure. In this sense, it’s important that law enforcers follow constitutional procedure when dealing with suspects. By asserting your natural rights in a polite and firm manner, you will help them become better at their job. After all, you are their boss.

Asserting Your Rights Protects You from Corrupt LEOs

A small percentage of police officers are bad apples. Though the typical cop is unlikely to plant drugs in someone’s car, it does happen from time to time. By asserting your right to refuse searches or other types of investigation without probable cause, it makes this outcome totally impossible. Even if the chance is small, there is no benefit to blindly submitting to the unreasonable requests of officers, so it’s better to be on the safe side and refuse searches.

Also, when police officers waste long periods of time searching vehicles of people who have nothing to hide, 911 response times take longer and real criminals are free to pursue their violence with impunity. It creates an atmosphere in which a mother might get pulled over and arrested for simple marijuana possession on the next traffic stop, needlessly tearing families apart. There are a number of reasons why police investigations that start, not in response to a crime, but for arbitrary reasons during a traffic stop, are harmful to public safety.

In order to help create a safe civil society, it is crucial for every citizen to assert his or her right to not be investigated without probable cause or a warrant, every time. If you do, you might be one of our future Rebel of the Week winners.

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About the Author: Barry Donegan

Barry Donegan is a singer for the experimental mathcore band Look What I Did, a writer, a self-described "veteran lifer in the counterculture", a political activist/consultant, and a believer in the non-aggression principle.