I Get Email

Sunday, September 4th, 2011

Well this made my afternoon.

 I was recently pulled over, and in the course of the stop, the officer started doing several tactics to try to get into my car to search for drugs. Even though I had no drugs in the vehicle at the moment or at all prior to the stop, I was able to exert my rights and not consent to a search. He, typically, proceeded to do the usual trick of “If there isn’t anything in the vehicle, why would you be so nervous about a search? If it were me, I’d just say, go for it.” To this, I was able to respond that I respected my rights living in the country that I was born in. Tactics changed, and I adapted to what I knew was coming down the pike.

If it weren’t for your work and the work of many like you, I would not have had the knowledge and ambition to do this, and it saved me a ton of time and energy dealing with an unreasonable search unrelated to a simple speeding violation. What also helped me tremendously to have the guts to do so was my cell phone in my pocket that I knew was recording the conversation the whole time. I can’t respect and thank you for your diligence on these topics enough.

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48 Responses to “I Get Email”

  1. #1 |  EH | 

    Also be sure to keep your registration and insurance in a door cubby or something so they can’t use the Plain View exception when you open your glove compartment. This is how a lighter often seems to look like a crack pipe for just long enough.

  2. #2 |  Name Nomad | 

    EH #1: Would you mind elaborating on that? I don’t understand how hiding your reg/insurance would help? Would it just be that they wouldn’t necessarily find them, so you could prove that you weren’t cooperating with the search?

  3. #3 |  Mike | 

    In places that it is illegal to record police officers after they say, “If you are not doing anything illegal, you have nothing to fear”, I would want to ask if they mind if I record them, because if the police are not doing anything illegal you have nothing to fear.

  4. #4 |  Angie | 

    Very awesome!

  5. #5 |  tired dog | 

    >NM, I think EH refers to keeping your ins / reg located such that you do not have to open console storage or glove box as a glimpse into those areas might evoke images of ‘weapons’ or ‘paraphanelia’ in the mind of a zealous costumed state employee. Weapons or paraphanelia of course trigger a non consent search.
    I keep my papers tucked in the sun shade above windshield.

  6. #6 |  Fred Mangels | 

    Good move on avoiding the search. I haven’t had the pleasure, at least not yet, but I’ve thought a bit about how I’d respond if I was asked to have my car searched. I think my reply would be something along this line:

    No, you may not search my car. You don’t have probable cause. If you did have probable cause you wouldn’t need to ask. I watch a lot of those reality cop shows and, quite frankly, I’m appalled at how many police officers nowadays try to search people’s cars for no reason at all. That sort of behavior makes a mockery out of our right against unreasonable searches so, sorry, I’m refusing your request..

    That may seem a bit long winded, but I think it let’s them know why I’m refusing in a clear and non- threatening manner.

    Along that same line, as an aside, I’m a strong defender of people’s right to record police officers. I do take issue with the way some people try to explain it to police. Like that one guy where the nice cop stops him for openly carrying a gun that was featured here.

    The citizen says, “I’m recording this for my protection“, or something along that line. I felt that a little bit antagonistic towards the officer who had done nothing to warrant that sort of response. How about “I’m recording this for both your and my protection”. How could a cop argue with something that’s for his benefit, too?

  7. #7 |  Dan | 

    @Fred Mangels,

    Why so many words? I’m more fond of, “No.”. If they ask me why, THEN I’d say something like, “Because you don’t have a reason to search”. From my experience, a long, libertarian-minded reason tends to escalate the situation a bit.

  8. #8 |  John Jenkins | 

    What I’ve told officers who asked to search is that I am a lawyer and I tell people all the time to refuse that request and it would be hypocritical of me not to refuse it myself. It has gotten a chuckle before, and I am on my way.

  9. #9 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

    #3 Mike:

    As an IL resident, I completely agree!

  10. #10 |  EH | 

    tired_dog@5 has it.

    Fred@6: Seriously, just say “no, I do not consent to any searches.” Cops don’t care a fig about your opinion, and I believe it to be bad advice to advocate saying anything more than the bare minimum. If you merely stutter or sound nervous as you recite your speech, they’ll say that was the reason they suspected you of being under the influence of methamphetamine, which is a felony.

  11. #11 |  Just Plain Brian | 

    No, you may not search my car

    IANAL, Fred, but I’d stop right after that sentence. I’m with you in spirit, but you have nothing to gain from the rest of that paragraph, and, frankly you don’t need to provide a reason any more than you need to provide a reason not to punch you in the face. He doesn’t have the right to, and the encounter won’t hinge on how good your argument is.

    Just my opinion.

  12. #12 |  DoubleU | 

    For those that don’t know about this site, Flex Your Rights. A site on dealing with the police.

  13. #13 |  Adam | 

    I agree with EH completely. Don’t ever say a single word to the cops if you don’t need to.

  14. #14 |  Anthony | 

    EH, good tip. I’m moving my papers now.

  15. #15 |  Old Fart | 

    Radley always fights the good fight… It’s not about money. It’s not about being known. It’s bout you and me.

    It’s about suppoting one another.

    Fight the Uniform… Suppoirt youself!

  16. #16 |  Law Prof | 


    Once I was asked “Can I search your vehicle?”

    Answer: “No.”

    Question #2: “Why not?”

    Answer: “There is a Fourth Amendment, I might as well use it.”

    Response: Silence for a minute while I watched the wheels churning in his cerebrial cortex (perhaps a “mind”), then he says “S*it. Get outta here.”

    YOUR RIGHTS WORK, exercise them often.

  17. #17 |  Just Plain Brian | 

    Answer: “There is a Fourth Amendment, I might as well use it.”

    Great answer!

  18. #18 |  EH | 

    Question #2: “Why not?”

    I don’t get pulled over- but one of the last times I just say there silently when asked something similar, probably “where you going so fast?”

  19. #19 |  Dave Krueger | 

    How long before government starts regulating the recording function on phones to make it more difficult to initiate a recording? You know, to protect people’s privacy.

  20. #20 |  SamK | 

    Last time a cop said something like that to me I told him the truth: “Are you kidding? I don’t like you, I don’t have any reason to give a shit what you want, and the only reason I need to say no is that it makes you unhappy. I can’t stop you, you have a gun, but I’ll be damned if I’ll tell you it’s ok.”

    Didn’t think he’d shut up and go away, but apparently he didn’t have a comeback for that one. Of course, he didn’t have a taser either.

  21. #21 |  GregS | 

    To whoever wrote the e-mail, thank you for your courage. I’ve been in that situation before, when I was much younger, and I caved. I caved because I didn’t know better. Everyone who makes it difficult for cops to do these random searches creates a public good. You are discouraging future abuses by ensuring that fruitless searches take a long time. If every stop takes a lot of extra time and effort and does not reward the cop with an arrest, that discourages cops from making them.
    Thank you.

  22. #22 |  yonemoto | 

    One strategy I’ve considered is to have a piece of paper on which is written in big black marker, “I don’t consent to a search, and I don’t answer questions without my lawyer present”. That way you aren’t stammering when you say something in a potentially nerve-wracking situation, and if you’re recording it, then it comes through in the video (if reversed).

    You could also write certain canned responses, too, such as, “Am I under arrest?” “Am I being detained?”

  23. #23 |  EH | 

    SamK: You must be a real treat to the baristas. “I’m tired and I just want my fuckin coffee without a lot of chit-chat, OK? JESUS.”

  24. #24 |  EH | 

    You shouldn’t be freaked out so much that you can’t say “yes, sir,” “no, sir,” “here’s my license and stuff,” “is that it?”

    A piece of paper? That’s slave talk.

    The probability of getting pulled over and converted into Cameron Todd Willingham is very small indeed, so just conduct yourself like an upstanding citizen. Be matter of fact and talk to them in their own language.

  25. #25 |  Matt | 

    If it were me I wouldn’t even cite rights or anything along those lines. I’d go with asking other questions. “Can I search your vehicle?” would get a “no” and “why not” will get an “am I being detained?” or “am I free to go?” in response. As far as I can tell they don’t deserve a proper response to a question like “why can’t I search your car”.

  26. #26 |  John C. Randolph | 

    “Officer, it’s my duty as an American to uphold the constitution. That means that I don’t consent to warrantless searches, and it is your duty not to pressure me to do so.”


  27. #27 |  John C. Randolph | 

    If you did have probable cause you wouldn’t need to ask.

    That’s not correct. If he things he has probable cause, then he can ask a judge for a warrant. Probable cause is grounds for a warrant, it’s not an automatic authority to violate your fourth amendment rights.


  28. #28 |  John C. Randolph | 

    There is a Fourth Amendment, I might as well use it.

    I’d phrase that slightly differently. Something along the lines of “my ancestors overthrew our king and wrote the fourth amendment, and I’m not going to dishonor their memory by letting you violate it.”


  29. #29 |  CharlesWT | 

    If you don’t already know it, learning enough sign language to fake it might be useful in some cases.

  30. #30 |  Xenocles | 


    That’s true, but the point was that the cop wouldn’t need to ask the subject of the search. He could just get the warrant and do the search.

  31. #31 |  Jason | 

    ‘You shouldn’t be freaked out so much that you can’t say “yes, sir,” “no, sir,” “here’s my license and stuff,” “is that it?”’

    I don’t call cops “sir” anymore. It comes across too much like subservience. “Officer” is polite enough.

  32. #32 |  perlhaqr | 

    To the Original Letter Writer: WOOOOOOOOOOT!

    EH @23: The difference, of course, being that one voluntarily interacts with baristas, whereas most of us never voluntarily interact with police. Or, to be more explicit, if I was being accosted by a barista who was holding a gun to gain my custom, I’d probably be pretty surly with her, too.

  33. #33 |  jmcross | 

    How not to do it. This dude gets it all back-asswards.


  34. #34 |  MassHole | 

    Many years ago I was pulled over for speeding by a SC state trooper, in a mustang no less. I was in the process of moving, so my bronco was full of personal belongings, furniture, etc. Cop asked if he could “take a look in my car”. I wasn’t as well versed at the time, but I knew I could refuse and I politely did so saying “Officer, I’m moving and need to be at my new job by 6. I understand my rights and don’t care to have a stranger rummaging through my personal belongings. So I don’t agree to you searching my car.” The cop then did the plain view thing walking around the car looking in the windows and questioning asking me about things: “What’s that?” “That’s a stereo sir”. Etc. He ended up leaving it at that and even gave me a warning instead of a speeding ticket.

    Another reason not to let the cops search your car: They will fuck it up. A buddy of mine was pulled over and foolishly allowed a search (he had nothing to hide and all that). The cops tore his car all to pieces and didn’t do a thing to put it back together. He was left sitting on the side of the road with every bit of his trunk liner laying on the ground, his subwoofer removed from the box, etc.

  35. #35 |  marco73 | 

    It is amazing how a little politeness will completely disarm cops. And I hate to say it, but being a white guy also helps a lot. A lot of people tell me I have a very “honest” face.

    I’m a plain white wrapper midwestern farm guy who moved to Florida years ago. I’m married to a very nice woman of Carribean descent.

    Back a few years, right after the hurricanes of 2004, I was helping my in-laws in Central Florida clear up some blown down trees. We had my father-in-law’s truck filled all the way up, and a trailer completely buried in branches. Right near the entrance to the dump, we were stopped by local county deputies.

    Apparently the branches were blocking the license plate on the trailer, so it was a legitimate traffic stop. The first deputy has my father-in-law step out so he can “hey hombre” and “look here boy” him. The deputy was asking if we were transporting anything “illegal.”

    The other deputy walks around to my side of the truck, expecting to be able to hasass another minority. Even covered in dirt and wearing a hat, there was no disguising that I was a standard issue white guy.

    I stepped out of the truck, and without prompting, but very slowly and politely, I opened up my wallet to get out my DL. Of course I just happened to show my military ID. Oops.

    Well all of a sudden its “Yes, Sir” and “Have a nice day Sir” and “Drive Safely Sir.” No ticket, no search, no further delay.

    I guess the lesson here is always drive around with a polite white guy.

  36. #36 |  Lyn | 

    Reading your comments has depressed me. Sorry that we all have to modify our lives and prepare for dealing with this.

    My response is “No.” Any follow-up from the officer and I interrupt him loudly with “I said no.” Anything else from him/her and I get even louder and say “I don’t answer questions either and I don’t listen to your crap.”

    I have given up trying to be nice to them. I’ve dealt with police types all my life. To me they’re the hoodlums that sat together in the lunch room in school and picked on others. Stand up to them is the only way to go.

    One piece of advice: if you’re gonna resist best time to do it is before they get the cuffs on you.

  37. #37 |  MPH | 

    The instructor for my wife’s concealed weapons class in FL was a retired FL state trooper (of 28 years). He told her that she should scan her forms (DL, registration, insurance card, and CCW permit) into a computer, enlarge them and print them on a single sheet of paper, with one side having all the “fronts” and the other all the “backs”. Keep that paper handy. When asked for such during a stop, hand over the copy (you’re not required to “surrender”, or “give to the cop”, your information during a stop, only to “present”, which means “show to”). Other than that, keep your hands where he can see them (top of the steering wheel), turn your car OFF (the stopping officer will feel more at ease, since you’re not just going to blast off), roll the windows down (as long as weather conditions allow it). If it’s night time, turn on your interior light. The goal is to make the cop at ease, since he doesn’t know if you’ve just robbed a 7-11 or not. And you want him at ease, since cops kill 3,000 innocent people per year, and they get away with it.

    One can also put on the paper that “At the advice of my attorney, I do not consent to any searches, and I answer no questions”. Then say NOTHING.

  38. #38 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

    MPH “…since cops kill 3,000 innocent people per year, and they get away with it.”

    –Citation needed–

    Seriously, man. I’m a faithful Agitator reader and a critic of law enforcement much of the time. But where do you get off saying that without providing even one source. And how do you define “innocent.” You are pretty much treading in Alex Jones territory on that one.

  39. #39 |  Ruff | 

    Cops don’t like being told no. LOL.


  40. #40 |  Pablo | 

    Masshole–Good point about the damage that police can/will do to your vehicle. A “consensual” search can stretch out into a long drawn out affair as they literally take your car apart. Good luck getting them to pay for any damage they cause.

    Ive been stopped a number of times for traffic stuff, and have never had a cop ask to search my car. Sadly, being a middle aged white guy helps. One time I was stopped for forgetting my seat belt and the cop asked if I had “any drugs or weapons.” I have a CCW and figured there was no gain in lying about the gun so I said “yeah there is a pistol in that bag and I have a permit for it.” I was expecting an ordeal but he just shrugged, said “OK” and wrote out a warning.

    If Im ever asked to consent to a search I will say “No I don’t consent.” If asked why I’ll just say I value my privacy and don’t want anyone going through my personal stuff.

  41. #41 |  Dave R | 

    I agree with declining a search, but don’t think it’s necessary to be rude — that never helps anything. A good tactic I read about once is to answer an inappropriate question with another question. For example, if asked, “where are you going?” You respond, “why is it necessary for you to know that?”
    It puts THEM on the defensive, trying to think of an answer to the question, rather than you.

    So with that concept, after refusing the search, if the officer says, “why don’t you want me to search,” I might respond, “Because I’m not required to by law. Why are you so intent on searching?”

  42. #42 |  jmcross | 

    @39 What an out of control prick. So, in WV if you assert your rights you are a motherfucker and a cocksucker. Got it. Must be in the new professionalism handbook.

  43. #43 |  Rich | 

    I am on my way to place a flag on the grave of a veteran who died defending our fourth amendment officer.I do not consent to a search, Why do you have a problem with our constitution? I would like to talk to your supervisor. I will wait as long as it takes to file a complaint. Men have died for our rights. I can stand here on the side of the road as long as it takes to do the same.
    But despite my love of drama, this will probably never happen. I am white middle aged drive safely for the most part and would be polite to the Human being doing his job in the first place. The drama and excitement would be a welcome break in a boring day. I am Dennis the oppressed peasant, looking for a knight in shining armor, to Oppress me.

  44. #44 |  Josh J | 

    My mom and I were driving back from CVS the yesterday. She was pulled over for not having her front license plate attached. I was in the passenger seat, wearing my seat-belt. After getting her license and registration, the officer asked if he could see MY license. I said, “I don’t have it on me.” He then asked for my name, I said “I’d prefer not to say.” He tried to tell me I was required by law to give him my name, and asked why I wouldn’t give him my name. I said, “I choose not to.” (My general philosophy is that I only talk to government agents through my attorney.) He went back to his car for 10 minutes, came back, ignored me, gave my mom a warning, and we were on our way. I was fully prepared to let him take me to the station for not identifying, because I didn’t think I should have to give my name. A very minor interaction in the scheme of things, but it never would have happened if not for this site. Thanks, Radley!

  45. #45 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    The goal is to make the cop at ease

    Yes, but fuck this.

  46. #46 |  H man | 

    @35 reminds me of Chris Rock’s ways to avoid a beating skit. One of the suggestions was “get a white friend.”

  47. #47 |  Arthur Felter | 

    I won’t tell a cop this, but the reason why I would refuse a search is two-fold: 1, if they pull something out and break it, they are not liable. And you get to put everything back together on the side of the road. 2, I drive a used car. I don’t know the individual who had the car before I, so I can’t be 100% certain that s/he didn’t stash some drugs somewhere obscure on the car and then forgot about it. If I consent to a search and a cop finds something like drugs, I’m screwed.

    But both can easily be prevented.

  48. #48 |  Dave R | 

    By an amazing coincidence, the day after posting my opinion above, I got stopped by a Huntington Beach CA police officer. Why was I stopped? Because a friend was waiting for me to pick him up. As I stopped at the stop sign, he got in the car. The officer told me it was “suspicious” for a nice car to stop in that particular neighborhood, and someone to get in the car. WFT? I was questioned and detained for about 30 minutes, while the officer attempted to get me to confess to various crimes — he did a field sobriety test, and asked me numerous questions about drug use and so on.

    Here’s the important part — an interesting tactic. The officer initially came up to my window and asked me a couple of questions. He asked to see my license, which I gave him. He then asked me to step over to his car for a few questions. So I did. After questioning me near his car, he started down the road he would — “do you have any drugs or weapons in your vehicle?” No. “Do you have anything out of the ordinary in your vehicle?” No. “So can I take a look?” No, I’m not giving you permission to search my vehicle. Now here’s the tricky part. He: “where do you keep your vehicle registration?” Me: In the glove box. The partner begins walking over to my car. I say, “I’m not giving you permission to go into my glove box” and begin walking toward my car also. He says, “stay back sir” and his partner says, “I don’t need permission to go into your glove box.” He proceeds to rummage around in the glove box, but can’t find it. He then roots around all through the passenger and driver side of my car, looking for the registration and proof of insurance.

    Because I’d renewed the registration recently, the registration was in the console of my car along with my wallet, checkbook, etc.

    Anyway, here’s the lessons I learned:
    1. If you haven’t already given the vehicle documents to the officer, and he asks you to step out of the vehicle, bring the documents with you.
    2. As you exit your vehicle, close and lock the doors. With a wireless entry system this is very quick and easy. You just need to take the key with you (which I didn’t because I was flustered, and angry at being stopped for an invalid reason).

    I’m still pissed off about how this stop was conducted, but I haven’t quite figured out what to do about it. I’m thinking of a letter to the police chief. Or maybe the mayor. Problem is, the officers were probably doing exactly as trained.