Legal First Aid: Protect Yourself from The Police and the Government

We The People: Speaking Truth to Power

When Government turns its awesome power on you, what should you do?:

1. Panic.
2. Try to talk your way out of it.
3. Show submissive behavior, like a non-alpha dog would.
4. Confess early and often – even to things you know nothing about, to please them.
5. None of the Above.

Correct – none of the above. Panic, submission and wishful thinking – while all too common, are not the way to protect yourself.

Well then, what should you do?

Do Not Trust Them. Trust Yourself.
Do not lie. Do not tell the truth. Say nothing. Consult a criminal defense lawyer before making any statements to police. That is the general rule, with few exceptions. When in doubt, remain silent. If you hear a Miranda Warning, the alarm bells should be going off – be quiet!

Why? Police are generally good people. Like the rest of us, they too have a tough job, pressures. They are human – not perfect. They have a point of view, often a bias, and can be subject to the “self-fulfilling prophecy” phenomenon just like the rest of us. Have you ever noticed that people tend to side with whoever complains to them first? Think police officers are immune to that? Suffice it to say that there are many reasons and causes for police misinterpreting other people; coercing unreliable statements, or both.

You can always make a statement later, if that makes sense, after consulting with your criminal law attorney. Police efforts to create a sense of urgency in making a statement are generally self-serving, designed to prevent you from “lawyering up.”

Avoid Consenting to a Search
Police are trained to get “consent” to search where possible. Consent is an exception to the judicial search warrant requirement of the United States Constitution. If they get valid, voluntary consent, the search will probably be found to be legal. But why would a sane person give real, voluntary, consent to be searched by police? Nothing better to do? Almost every so-called consent search involves a degree of coercion by police – more or less.

Giving in to police coercion to “consent” to a search – with the secret hope that a lawyer may be able to save it later – is a bad idea. There could be no guarantee of that! The best approach is to refuse to consent to any search by police – of your person, belongings, vehicle, or living or work-space.

A majority of police contacts happen as the result of traffic stops. It is generally better for the defense to endure delay, detention, even arrest – rather than consent to a search. Some say or think “why not consent – they say or look like they’ll search anyway.” That is a bad idea – and what they want you to think – since that would likely prevent your lawyer from otherwise making motions to suppress evidence obtained as a result of an illegal search.

If police can search lawfully with a warrant, they do not need consent, and you should not physically or verbally interfere. You do not need to speak.

If you have been contacted by police investigating a possible crime, you would be wise to consult a criminal defense lawyer quickly, to seek investigation representation or pre-charge counsel. Your lawyer can help you take steps to protect yourself from the injustice and awesome power of the government.

By: Thomas C Gallagher, a Minneapolis Criminal Lawyer

One response to “Legal First Aid: Protect Yourself from The Police and the Government

  1. Thanks for another great post, Tom. A great service!

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