How to Not Consent to a Search – and Still Play it Cool
Red and blue lights are flashing behind you. You’ve got drugs in the trunk of your car. Even if you don’t – drugs might mysteriously “find their way in there." Don’t put your life at the mercy of a cop’s morality. It’s time to assert your rights. Bonus points for charming your way out of a traffic ticket – but NEVER at the cost of consenting to a life-ruining search.
Not a memorizer? Print this card and keep it in your wallet:
How to Not Consent To A Search
- Getting Pulled Over
- Polite but Uncooperative
- Frisking: Just SAY No
- Am I Free to Go?
- Getting Arrested
Put your hazards on, give the office a polite wave and slow down to pull over. If you’re on an interstate or extremely busy road it’s okay to drive ahead to a safe spot to pull over. If you’ve signaled to the cop that you acknowledge that he’s pulling you over, he’ll probably appreciate you looking for a spot that doesn’t put him in the middle of highway traffic. If your “safe spot” happens to be a gas station (with a good likelihood of having a camera), great. Once you’re pulled over (as long as you’re not hiding something – that stuff should be in your trunk anyways), turn the dome light on. Hands on the wheel and window down as he approaches – you want to convey: I’m a friendly non-criminal.
You can be a jerk. You can raise your voice and be confrontational. Should you be? Not unless you want to trigger the cop’s “Bully-Authority versus Perp” mentality. Being polite and being cooperative are two VERY different things.
A cop can frisk you if they have a reasonable basis for thinking you’re armed. Doesn’t mean you should EVER consent to a search. Be sure the cop hears you say “respectfully officer, I’m not resisting but I don’t consent to searches.” Do not physically resist, but clearly state your lack of consent. You don’t need to explain why or express any deep understanding of the law – the cop surely thinks they know more than you. This isn’t a battle of wits or wills, it’s just you firmly asserting your rights. Being right means you don’t need to explain yourself.
If the cop stalls or threatens to bring in a K-9 unit, ask “am I being detained or am I free to go?” If you don’t get a straight answer - ask again. There’s way to do this politely without triggering any bullying behavior.
If you ARE being detained it’s time to ask for a lawyer. “Officer, I respectfully assert my right to silence and I’d like to talk to my lawyer.”
Tom Grieve: Criminal Defense Attorney, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Read more about what to do when getting arrested. Convicted in Waukesha, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Washington, Racine county or the surrounding Wisconsin communities? Call Tom Grieve.
You Are Only Guilty If You Are Convicted ®