A Person of Color's Guide To Arrest

The relationship between the community and the police is one that has always been iffy. In marginalized communities especially, community members are subjected to racial profiling and discrimination when encounters with police offers. While the understanding of that is widely known, what is often misunderstood are the exact rights we as the public have in situations of arrest or any plain encounter with a police officer.

Here are your exact rights without any overly complex diction or courtroom mumbo-jumbo.

1. You can limit the access they have your car

In a high-pressure instance like being pulled over, it can be easy to feel forced to comply with an officer’s demands/requests. While that may speed up the process, it can allow you to relinquish rights that you may not know you have in that situation.

When you are pulled over, you have the right to only roll down your window to the extent in which you are comfortable. Rolling it down all the way can give the office further access to your car and thus provide probable cause to search the car. However, if you are asked initially to roll the window down all the way, it may be best to comply, though you do not have to.

This reflects your Fourth Amendment right which states that “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated.”

2. You do not need to answer any questions that may incriminate you

Often times when you are pulled over, an officer will ask “Do you know why I pulled you over?” in which many may respond with whatever they assume they were doing wrong, DO NOT do that. Doing so violates your Fifth Amendment right which protects individuals from being forced to incriminate themselves.

Instead of assuming or admitting to your wrongdoing (if any), proceed to say no and let the officer explain their reasoning for pulling you over. There is no need to confess to anything.

3. You do not need to let them search your car

If you are asked to exit the vehicle, you should. However, just because you are out of the car does not mean the officer may go in. An officer may use a suggestive question like “you wouldn’t mind if I search the car, now?” or “there’s nothing in here that you should not have, right?”

Your response to that question can 100% be “No. I do not consent to a search of my car.” An even better response would be to ask if you are being detained (arrested) as you exit the vehicle. If not, you have no reason to comply with any further questions/searches.

As you deny a search it is within your Fourth Amendment right to lock your vehicle and close the doors and continue to deny their access to a search.

Do not be bribed or convinced into allowing them to search the car if you are uncomfortable with them doing so.

4. The police can search your car if they have the evidence to do so

Under general rulings of the Supreme Court, officers can search your car when probable cause is present. Probable cause is a complex term for evidence, however, the evidence is not an officer’s assumption.

Evidence must be something an officer sees or hears before or during the time they pull you over in plain view. For example; open liquor, marijuana, or tools used to engage taking illegal drugs (pipes, needles, etc.)

5. Filming the process of you being pulled over is legal

While body cameras are virtually present on every police officer, it is within your right to record the process for your own records. This is important because if your rights or violated or you are put in danger, you have evidence to take them to court, instead of them taking you!

This is a supreme court right. Treat it as such.

Due to the power structure in society, it is far to easy to be intimidated into complying with authority. However, knowing your rights directly and even knowing some exact terminology to use in your defense will show any officer that you understand the process at hand just as much as they do, ultimately resulting in better security of your safety.