Saturday, December 6, 2014


With all of the recent events involving contact between citizen
and police. It would be helpful for civilians to understand the
 dynamics of an police encounter.
The most  important thing you must understand is that once there is a decision to arrest NO ONE MAY RESIST ARREST. Even a police officer must comply if he is being arrested by other Law
Enforcement Officers.

MERE SUSPICION:  Officer has a gut feeling or hunch

When a police officer first approaches you with MERE SUSPICION he may interview you to ascertain whether you are intoxicated, conducting some illegal behavior, need help, etc.

This is a Consensual “Voluntary” Encounter  

This first type of interaction involves the police walking up to someone on the street and asking questions.  Asking “voluntary” questions like this does not implicate the Fourth Amendment is not considered a “search” or “seizure” under the Constitution.

Police can ask anyone for ID anytime and can ask to search someone’s bag anytime, without having to have a warrant, probable cause, or even reasonable suspicion that criminal activity is afoot.

This is because in theory, the person can always refuse to provide information or say no to the search and walk away.  These types of questions are allowed as long as the police don’t give the impression that you are required to answer.  For example, as long as the police don’t make a show of force or authority. 

I say “in theory” because if a police officer in uniform approaches you and asks you a question, it is sometimes hard to know whether you are required to respond.But generally, if an officer walks up to you on the street without any reason to believe you have been involved in a crime, you are not required to answer his questions.

Officer suspects that you may be involved in an illegal act or carrying a weapon. You may be subjected to Stop & Frisk.
Under Reasonable Suspicion  police may make a  “Terry stop” (a brief investigatory stop)
This second kind of police interaction involves a temporary detention.  Not an arrest, but you are not free to walk away.  This does require that the police have “reasonable suspicion.”  It is not considered a “seizure” but is a temporary stop that is allowed when there is “articulable suspicion that a person has committed or is about to commit a crime.”
In other words, in some cases, the police can stop someone for purposes of investigating possible criminal behavior — even when there is no probable cause to make an arrest.
This doctrine allows police to act when they think a crime is about to happen — they don’t have to sit back and wait until they have probable cause to arrest.  What’s more, the police are even allowed to pat you down if they have a “reasonable fear for his own or others’ safety” before frisking.  But in order to do a pat down, the police must have specific facts that they say make them afraid you might have a weapon — they can’t just say they had a hunch.
The test to figure out whether a stop is a “seizure” (a Terry stop) or just a voluntary consensual stop considers several factors:

  • Was there a threatening presence of several officers?
  • Did the officer display a weapon?
  • Did the officer touch the person?
  • Did the officer’s language or tone of voice indicate that the person was required to answer?
  • DId the officers approach the person in a non-public place?
  • Did the officers block the person’s path?

If the answer to one or more of these questions is “yes”, then the officers must prove they had reasonable suspicion for the stop.  If not, the stop is invalid and whatever happened next could be thrown out of court.


The officer has found sufficient cause to ARREST you for a crime: a misdemeanor (less than 1 year) or felony (more than 1 year).  No one may resist arrest. You must comply.

In order to actually put you under arrest, the police must believe a crime has been committed and  that the person they stopped committed it.An arrest without a warrant is constitutionally valid if the officers had probable cause to make the arrest.

Note that the police cannot stop you just because you have a record.  Being a drug user, having a prior DUI on your record, or having committed a crime before is not by itself valid justification to stop you.

Likewise, being in a high crime area is not enough to support a stop.  

Further, if you are stopped for a traffic violation, the length of the stop has to be reasonable.  Just enough time to check your license, write the ticket, and send you on your way.  An officer can’t expand the scope of the stop beyond the purpose of writing a ticket unless there is some other information that makes him suspicious that other crimes are happening or about to happen.

If you are arrested, the police are permitted to search your person and to secure your cell phone.  However, they are not allowed to search your texts, call log, photos, videos, etc on your phone unless they get a warrant. 

You don’t have to put up a fight to be accused of Resisting Arrest. When a police officer tells you that you are under arrest or commands  you to turn around with your hand behind you back; you are under arrest and MUST COMPLY. Pulling your hands away is Resisting Arrest, pushing the officer away is Resisting Arrest, trying to walk away or evade is Resisting Arrest.

Do not resist. Resisting arrest will open the door to an escalating use of force continuum that can spiral up to deadly force.

Try to remain calm. Don’t exacerbate the situation by insulting, screaming, squirming, pulling away, etc.
Once you are arrested don’t  try to talk your way out of the arrest. Comply, don’t get too chatty either you will probably say something you’ll be sorry you said. Remember that anything you say cam be held against you.

 It is your constitutional right to call your attorney or ask for one to be provided. That is the best alternative. Be calm, be quiet and get representation.  When you are being interrogated it is your right to have a lawyer present. DO NOT yield that right.



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