Since we were young, we have been taught that the United States is a free country. This may be true, relatively speaking, but it is also true that almost 2.3 million people are behind bars in the United States and that the U.S. has the highest incarceration rate, by far, of any industrialized nation. The following are some suggestions which, I hope, might prove helpful in successfully negotiating encounters with police officers:
1.Do not smoke marijuana in your car, ever! Do not wear clothes which smell like marijuana. Marijuana is still illegal. Since it is contraband, the odor of marijuana gives the police a valid reason to conduct a search.
2.Never admit to drinking alcohol before driving. If you have had anything to drink prior to driving, simply tell the police that you are exercising your right to remain silent.
3.We are all told, over and over, not to drink and drive. Undoubtedly, this is good advice. However, bars and restaurants all have parking lots. It is not illegal, yet, to have one or even two drinks and then drive a car. If you do drive after drinking any alcohol, take steps to reduce the chances of being pulled over. You should obey traffic rules and avoid speeding, but you should also not drive too slowly. Do not drive in an excessively cautious manner. I have read police reports where people were pulled over for gripping the steering wheel too tightly, for holding their hands in an exaggerated “ten and two” position, or for having their face too close to the windshield. In addition, you should try to avoid locations where police frequently set up checkpoints. Favorite spots in New York City seem to be the Meatpacking District, Tribeca, and the entrances to the Holland, Lincoln, and Midtown Tunnels. For leaving town, the George Washington Bridge may be a better choice.
4.Do not agree to answer police officers' questions, except for “pedigree questions” (e.g., name and address). Instead, request a lawyer.
5.Do not underestimate the intelligence of police officers. Most police officers are intelligent, well trained, and well educated. You should always remember that police officers may lawfully lie to you and trick you. Once you have been arrested, the best thing you can do is invoke your right to remain silent and ask for a lawyer.
6.Be polite. Police officers sometimes give nice people the benefit of the doubt.
7.Do not voluntarily agree to a search of your car or your person. Never physically resist, but do not consent either.
8.Never physically resist arrest. Cooperate fully with police on the street. Abusive police officers can be dealt with later, in court.
9.Keep your car in good condition. Make sure your registration and inspection are both current. Also, avoid window tint and excessively loud exhaust. All of these give the police a valid reason to stop your car. Also, remember that toll collectors at the TBTA Bridges and Tunnels are police officers. Use the EZ Pass lane to avoid unnecessary police contact.
10.Do not send your DNA to genealogy websites such as “23 and me.” Discourage family members from doing this as well. The government can access data submitted voluntarily to these websites. Those of us interested in protecting individual liberty are fighting a rear-guard action. Technology is making it easier for the government, as well as corporations, to spy on all of us. Providing your DNA to private companies compromises your own privacy and that of your whole extended family.