Whether its a situation of “We smell something in your car” or “driving while black”, you DO have rights when you are stopped by police, and your rights are YOUR rights. These have been established through case law, and ultimately, some stem directly from the Constitution. Here are the magic phrases as told by Brandon Weber of Good.
1. “Am I free to go?”
You can ask this question in any situation involving the police. Some people ask “Am I being detained?” This is the same question with different words. If you are not being detained, then you are in fact free to go. If they say you are not free to go, then you are NOT free to go. That means they suspect you of doing something and they will try to get you to incriminate yourself.
2. “I do not consent to any searches.”
Police will often try to trick you into letting them search your vehicle or house or other property. They often say something like, “So if you haven’t done anything, then you’re ok with us searching your car … right? I mean, if you’re innocent. We’ll go easier on you if you let us.” You do NOT have to give up your rights that easily. Are you 10% certain no one left anything in your car that might be found by them and blamed on you? If you say NO, then they cannot legally search your property.
3. “I want to remain silent.”
You have that right, and if things start getting rough, you need to use it; don’t be intimidated into incriminating yourself. “We clocked you going 60 in a 50, but when you opened your window to give us your license, we smelled marijuana.” A good answer to something like this is, “I want to remain silent.”
4. “I want a lawyer.”
If you’ve reach this particular point, then you are probably in trouble anyway so ask for a lawyer and say nothing until he or she arrives.
It may be hard to remember these 4 things when you are in the moment; with your adrenaline pumping, your freedom in question, and when you’re possibly in physical danger, depending on the cops involved and your skin color. Learn them ahead of time, don’t fumble around looking for a list with these 4 things after you have been pulled over. Practice and learn them, there are only 4.
Weber suggests some possible mnemonic devices to help remember:
Perhaps a word involving the first letter of the four statements will help you remember: FoSSiL (Free, Searches, Silent, Lawyer)
Or maybe a mnemonic:
— Fiscal Suns Scramble Lives
— Fresh Sushi Smell Lemons
— Flexible Straws Sell Lobsters
— Free Subjects Steam Lobsters
Below is a short video clip so you can see some of these things in action. The rule #s are different, but don’t worry about that.
If you know your rights, you will be much more protected. Practice and remember these 4 things for the next time a traffic stop starts to go a little sideways.
(Article by Jeremiah Jones)