Major American cities -- New York in particular -- are essentially police states. From 2002 to 2012, cops in NYC spent one million hours on pot arrests. And while Stop-and-Frisk was recently ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge, the policy doesn’t look to be going anywhere soon. Below are a few things to keep in mind if an officer stops you on the street, courtesy of the ACLU.
Remember that you don’t have to answer any questions.
If a police officer stops you on the street, you can politely ask if you are free to go. Unless the cop has a legitimate reason to hold you, or otherwise states that you are detained or under arrest, you should be able to walk away.
Remember, you don’t have to talk to a police officer, but being rude won’t get you anywhere.
If a cop wants to make life hard for you, he can. It’s fucked up, but the power dynamics vastly favor the guy (or girl) in blue.
If you’re being “detained,” remain calm.
If a police officer tells you that you’re not free to go but doesn’t arrest you, you’re being detained. There’s a good chance the officer is going to pat down the outside of your clothes. At least, if he believes that he has “reasonable suspicion,” he may legally do so. Are some police going to abuse this power and assert reasonable suspicion where none exists? Of course they are. Stay calm.
Provide calm verbal protest if an officer attempts to do more than pat you down.
Tell the officer that you do not consent to the search, but do not resist. Resisting will not under any circumstances help you. If anything, resisting will justify the officer’s actions ex post facto.
Give only your name if arrested.
Nothing else is legally required of you. Your first priority should be to ask for a lawyer. No matter what the police officer tells you, you do not have to answer any of his questions. Continue to ask for a lawyer until you receive one. Once your lawyer arrives, you can consult him or her as to the best course of action going forward.
Record your officer’s badge number.
If you feel that your arresting officer has violated your rights, file a complaint. It’s worth the hassle. If you can produce witnesses or a recording as evidence of an officer violating your rights, your complaint is infinitely more likely to go somewhere.