Of course, the easiest way to avoid being arrested is not to commit a crime. However, innocent people are arrested everyday. Or, the police file trumped-up charges without conducting a full and fair investigation into both sides.
But in some cases, the accused acts in a way that assists the police in making the State’s case. Here is some basic advice to protect your rights.
1. Get yourself legal
The police have to arrest you if you have an outstanding warrant. You have also committed a crime if you are driving without a valid license, are not insured, or are undocumented. This could lead to your arrest and search and the impounding and search of your vehicle.
2. Get your car legal
The police can stop you for an expired registration or inspection, or expired license plate, or a plate that has any portion obscured. Don’t drive a car that doesn’t pass all registration, license and inspection requirements.
3. Drive legally
The police can stop you for any traffic violation that they observe, no matter how petty: not signaling 100 feet before an intersection, stopping inches past the stop sign, turning right on a red light when prohibited, not wearing a seatbelt, not to mention speeding, erratic driving, driving with the radio blaring, etc. Drive like you did when you passed your driver’s test and don’t give the police a valid reason to stop you in the first place. In high crime areas, police will also stop and arrest you for jaywalking or crossing a street without an intersection. So, “walk legally” if you happen to live in a “high crime” neighborhood.
4. Hide your weapons and contraband
If you have a Texas Concealed Weapon Permit, you must follow all the rules and regulations you learned in concealed handgun licensing program.
Otherwise, it is illegal to have a weapon in your car. Weapons include not only guns, but illegal knives, clubs, brass knuckles, and explosive devices.
If any of these items are visible or in “plain view”, and you do not have a valid permit, the police can then search you, your passengers, and your car.
Again, you should not possess or transport drugs or contraband, but if it is in plain view during a valid traffic stop, the police can search you, your passengers, and your car.
Similarly, even the smell of marijuana or narcotics will support the search of your car. Don’t have anything out or use anything in your car.
5. Don’t consent
If you are pulled over or detained, police often ask if it is alright for them to search you or your car or ask you if you have anything illegal on you. Often, cops ask it in the same way that my father asked me if I wanted to do the dishes – it didn’t seem like a real question. It is a real question and, unless you are 100% sure that you and your car are completely clean, you can and should say NO.
Many times, the police are asking for your consent because they don’t otherwise have a legal basis for the search. Just say NO.
You can politely say, “No, sir. On the advice of my attorney, I prefer you not to search my vehicle (or person). Your lawyer can argue the legalities of a warrantless search, the basis of a search warrant, and the proper execution of a search all day long. The minute you have consented to the search, your legal arguments diminish greatly.
6. Don’t produce evidence for the cops
You have the right to refuse the Standardized Field Sobriety tests, or providing breath or blood samples without a warrant. Unless you have had nothing to drink or very little over the course of a long period of time, it is usually advisable to politely refuse the tests. Again, “No, sir. My attorney has advised me not to perform the tests or consent to the samples” is usually the best route.
Similarly, the police may ask you if they can look at your phone, or if you have a document or the name of a witness. You do not have to incriminate yourself. Again, a polite “no” and a reference to your attorney should end the request and force the police to get a search warrant if they have a legal basis for one.
Now that patrol cars and officers are equipped with cameras and microphones, evidence can be produced to show police were in the wrong. However, those same cameras and microphones can be used as evidence against you. If you are acting inappropriately, not showing respect to the officers (as unrespectworthy as they may be), demonstrating signs of intoxication or guilt, this could be evidence used against you.
7. Don’t talk to the cops
Even if you are completely innocent (especially if you are completely innocent) it is rarely advisable to talk to the police without counsel. If they are questioning you or inviting you down to the station, they have some indication that you did something wrong.
Unlike what they tell you, the police are not really trying to get your side of the story or conduct a fair investigation. They are trying to get you to incriminate yourself.
Unlike what they tell you, this is not the only time that you will be able to help yourself by talking to them. After you consult with an attorney, after your attorney conducts discovery and examines the evidence the State has against you, after your attorney talks to the prosecutor and gets a idea of their theory and strategy, even if it takes a trial, there is always an opportunity to present your side of the story. On your terms.
8. Don’t talk to anyone except your attorney
Once you talk to anyone other than counsel, your statements can be used against you. Statements of a defendant are not hearsay and witnesses are called all the time to say, “The defendant told me x”
Confiding in friends, family, and cellmates may satisfy your short-term need to get things off your chest, but may negatively affect your case in the long term.
Most importantly, never talk to a person who is in jail about anything you don’t want the State to know. As they warn you before each call, on the videos and at the jail, they are recording every word and it will be used against you in Court.
The same goes for mail and email. There is no expectation of privacy in jail. Mail and e-mail are opened, read, copied and then passed on to the recipient.
9. Don’t run
Flight can be considered evidence of a guilty conscience. If the police are trying to apprehend you, you are likely to be arrested because that’s what cops do. They prefer to let it get sorted out later. Stay on the scene, politely assert your rights, and call your attorney.
10. Don’t represent yourself
The cliché is a person who represents himself has a fool for a client. If you are charged with a criminal offense, you need the assistance of counsel. If you cannot afford it, contact CAPDS. http://www.capds.org.