Recently, there was a video posted about a law student that refused to talk with officers, refused to give him an ID, and refused to allow them to search his person. The law student did one thing correctly – he asserted his right to be free from unreasonable police conduct. This blog will be a three-part series about how the law student was correct. This first series will focus on what the law student did right. The next post will address the different types of contacts that you may have with law enforcement and finally what to do if you are stopped by an officer.
Law Student Disobeyed the Officer. He would not give the officer his name or identification and this was legal for the law student to do. An officer has the right to come up to you and ask you questions, including your name. This is the same as any other person walking down the street. If a stranger came up to you and asked you for identification, would you feel that you needed to give it to them? The same is true in this situation. You do not have to talk with the officers.
Law Student asked if he was suspected of criminal activity. An officer may stop you if he or she believes that you have, are, or had committed a crime. This belief has to be based on a reasonable suspicion. This means the officer must have some facts, other than “I don’t know you” to support a reason for stopping you. In the video, the officer admitted that under the laws of that state, it was not illegal for the law student to possess the gun and the officer could not provide any facts that would support a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. Basically, a law enforcement officer cannot just walk up to you because you are doing something that you are legally entitled to do and demand you to show proof that you are legally able as in this case possess a gun.
Another example would be, if you are drinking a beer at a bar, an officer cannot walk up to you and demand to know if you are on probation that would prohibit you from drinking alcohol, such is the case for many DUI convictions. There would be no bases for that question and this conduct by law enforcement is unreasonable and illegal.
Finally, towards the beginning of the video the officer conducted what is commonly called a “Terry Pat Down”. This is quick search of a person to ensure that he or she does not have any weapons on him or her. The courts allow this conduct to protect officers. The search is to be limited to the outer portions, no squeezing areas and only for weapons. The law student correctly told the officers that he would not consent to this search. If the officer has no reasonable belief that the person is a danger and there was nothing that the law student did to support the belief, this is an illegal search.
The officers was trying to get the law student to consent to the search and answering his questions. If you talk to the officer or allow the search the courts will find that the conduct was consensual. If you tell the officer that you do NOT consent to the search or DO NOT want to talk with him, this more than likely is an illegal detention. The next post in this series will talk about the different types of law enforcement contact that you could face.
If you need additional information or believe that you have been the victim of illegal police contact or are being accused of a crime, contact us at (303) 747-4686 or click FREE CONSULATION.