Learn How to Talk to Police like a Lawyer
Red and blue lights are flashing behind you. You’ve got drugs in the trunk of your car. Or maybe something worse. 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? 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 a 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.