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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 5/14/19

Drivers Beware: The Deadly Perils of Traffic Stops in the American Police State

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Survival is key.

Americans need to know their rights when it comes to interactions with the police, bearing in mind that many law enforcement officials are largely ignorant of the law themselves.

Technically, you have the right to remain silent (beyond the basic requirement to identify yourself and show your registration). You have the right to refuse to have your vehicle searched. You have the right to film your interaction with police. You have the right to ask to leave. You also have the right to resist an unlawful order such as a police officer directing you to extinguish your cigarette, put away your phone or stop recording them.

You have the right under the First Amendment to ask questions and express yourself. You have the right under the Fourth Amendment to not have your person or your property searched by police or any government agent unless they have a search warrant authorizing them to do so. You have the right under the Fifth Amendment to remain silent, to not incriminate yourself and to request an attorney. Depending on which state you live in and whether your encounter with police is consensual as opposed to your being temporarily detained or arrested, you may have the right to refuse to identify yourself. Presently, 26 states do not require citizens to show their ID to an officer (drivers in all states must do so, however).

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Knowing your rights is only part of the battle, unfortunately.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the hard part comes in when you have to exercise those rights in order to hold government officials accountable to respecting those rights.

As a rule of thumb, you should always be sure to clarify in any police encounter whether or not you are being detained, i.e., whether you have the right to walk away. That holds true whether it's a casual "show your ID" request on a boardwalk, a stop-and-frisk search on a city street, or a traffic stop for speeding or just to check your insurance. If you feel like you can't walk away from a police encounter of your own volitionand more often than not you can't, especially when you're being confronted by someone armed to the hilt with all manner of militarized weaponry and gearthen for all intents and purposes, you're essentially under arrest from the moment a cop stops you. Still, it doesn't hurt to clarify that distinction.

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While technology is always going to be a double-edged sword, cell phones are particularly useful for recording encounters with the police and have proven to be increasingly powerful reminders to police that they are not all powerful.

A good resource is The Rutherford Institute's "Constitutional Q&A: Rules of Engagement for Interacting with Police."

Clearly, in the American police state, compliance is no guarantee that you will survive an encounter with the police with your life and liberties intact.

So if you're starting to feel somewhat overwhelmed, intimidated and fearful for your life and the lives of your loved ones, you should be.

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John W. Whitehead is an attorney and author who has written, debated and practiced widely in the area of constitutional law and human rights. Whitehead's aggressive, pioneering approach to civil liberties has earned him numerous accolades and (more...)
 

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3 people are discussing this page, with 3 comments  Post Comment


David Watts

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I presume police abuse is only getting worse. Is there any reason at all to think things will get any better?

Submitted on Tuesday, May 14, 2019 at 7:02:05 PM

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Reply to David Watts:   New Content

None that I can think of....I have been fighting back since 9/11..:(

Submitted on Tuesday, May 14, 2019 at 7:36:05 PM

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Dana Clark

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I was recently stopped by a Brookings, Or. cop inside a Fred Meier grocery store. He approached me and asked if he had spoken to me earlier in the day. I said I had not and he asked for my ID. I asked if I was being detained and he said yes, he was conducting an investigation. I told him I am not answering any questions or IDing myself. Every response to all of his questions I said "I am not answering any questions, am I being detained?" He eventually tired of the interaction and left. Exercising silence and asking if you are free to go does work if the cop is really just fishing for something to get you to talk.

D Clark

Submitted on Tuesday, May 14, 2019 at 7:56:10 PM

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