Yesterday’s important Supreme Court case in Rodriguez v. United States seems to be getting some broader media attention. I hope that continues. Most of all, I hope it encourages people to consider how they should respond if an officer is subjecting them to a prolonged detention.
With that in mind, if you have been subjected to an unconstitutional detention, remember the following:
- At no point should you ever consent to a search of your person or your vehicle. Ever. It doesn’t matter if you have nothing to hide. This is especially true if anyone else ever drives your vehicle– that means anyone else, ever. For instance, if you’re a parent of a teenager, you don’t really know what your little angel might have unwisely decided to store in the vehicle you sometimes graciously allow him or her to drive. In any event, you shouldn’t consent to something you know is unconstitutional, because it means you’re simply participating in the eroding of everyone else’s constitutional protections.
- If possible, make sure you’re aware of the name and badge number of every officer who participates in the stop, not just the officer who talks to you the most. Be polite when asking for that information, but insistent.
- If the detention seems to be dragging on, in as polite, calm, and clear a fashion as possible, ask why it was you who were pulled over in the first place and ask that the officer issue you a citation for that violation, then allow you to leave. Again, be as polite and calm as you possibly can.
- It is always a good idea to speak to an attorney about your situation, even if nothing else comes of it for you. I offer free consultations; especially when the prolonged detention happens in the general South Bay area, I’d like to hear about it. Even if you don’t need an attorney, myself and many of my colleagues would like to know when these kinds of problems are happening. It may just be one incident for you; it might be a broad pattern of trouble in a community.
- If you are arrested, or are told you could be charged with a crime following a traffic stop, it is important to hire an attorney such as myself sooner rather than later. Waiting to “see what comes of it,” or simply hoping that a prosecutor or judge will recognize the unconstitutional way you were treated and independently do the right thing: these are serious mistakes borne of wishful thinking. You will need a lawyer to advocate for your position. The sooner the lawyer is involved, the sooner the lawyer can request all the possible evidence that might help your case, like any audio or video recordings of your traffic stop, or perhaps security camera footage from the surrounding area. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to help.
Everyone be safe out there; remember that most officers are trying to do a difficult job honestly and fairly. There’s no need to escalate a normal traffic stop into a confrontation just for the sake of having a confrontation. With that said, if you are in a position where you are being subjected to a prolonged detention, please try to follow this advice. Helping yourself helps your community as a whole, because we all benefit from better policing.