Know Your Rights – an Infographic

Yesterday Jason Howerton at TheBlaze.com shared this infographic created by the folks at Online Paralegal Programs

The infographic is admittedly pretty through. I’m glad it was created as it presents a lot of primer information on how to handle police interactions in an easy-to-consume form, which means more people will be aware and able to safeguard themselves.

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Some thoughts on the infographic, from the top-down:

Leading with the Fourth Amendment establishes that the information on the infographic is couched on legislation. Though some legislation says some good things, it isn’t always complied with by those who purport to uphold it as part of their job. It’s why, over a century ago, Lysander Spooner penned The Constitution of No AuthorityIt’s something to keep in mind. Your rights, and the rights of each person – including those born outside the arbitrary political boundaries of the united states, do not stem from what is written on paper.

Perhaps for a little more accuracy the section “Warning Signs Cops Look For” would be retitled “Things Cops Look For” to allow for items like skin color or socio-economic-status to be included, as, throughout the history of policing, minorities, and those less-financial able, have been targeted. Without question, police employees have been used to advance or preserve the norms though best by those who wield political power.

The section “Best Practices For Exercising Your Rights Safely” presents great advice. The “Be Polite” aligns with the approach often advocated here at copblock.org – to “remain cool, calm and collected.” Also overlapping is the tactic of “Ask to Leave Often” (“Am I free to go? Am I being detained?”) – don’t assume just because a police employee engaged you, that you must remain and answer questions. Also, to record immediately, to never consent to a search, and to never answer questions. Yet, I don’t think it wise to absolutely never resist to an unjust action. What if, for instance, a police employee demands that a person stopped perform a sexual act for leniency? Should that be resisted? Would the infographic creator recommend non-resistance to the person about to be shot on the edge of a pit? Sure – that’s a scenario not too likely, but it’s worth mentioning because such absolutist statements against resistance only help to instill an obience-to-claimed-authority mindset, which is what let to the situation we now find ourselves in, and thus the creation of this site and of that infographic as ways to peaceful erode support for such a reality. At the end of the day, you have the right to use defensive force, no matter the aggressor.

The “Filming A Police Encounter” section was good to see as that practice continues to proliferate we’ll all be better off. It’s not a hostile act, it’s merely capturing the truth (see http://copblock.org/filmthepolice). However, it would have been great to see mention of streaming apps, so that content from the scene can be safely kept offsite, away from the prying hands of would-be aggressors. Granted, there’s limited space on the infographic and it’s already extensive, but it’s an important tool worth putting on the radar of people.

In the “Miranda Rights” section it notes that they’re read only when in police custody. Perhaps a bit more clarification should have been given to mitigate the assumption most glean from television shows – that the person in custody is immediately read their rights. In fact, hours may pass before that happens, as courts dictate that it needs only be done prior to questioning. A person may be snatched-up and caged for a bit before that happens. Any questioning that happens before rights are read is not admissible to be used against the person. So, should you find yourself in an interaction with a police employee, don’t get tripped up. Take time to think. Don’t respond immediately (if at all) – give yourself time to think. If you pose a question to the police employee, don’t immediately follow it up with another – hold that person to task. If you choose to remain silent, remain silent, even though it can admittedly be awkward.

The “Common Police Tricks” were solid – such sample questions and responses I’m sure really help readers mentally prepare for such interactions.

Re: the “Breathalyzer” section, it’s worth noting that if you choose not to submit to the text, and your license is taken, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t drive. To put it another way – ones skill in operating a vehicle was just is not contingent on a piece of paper. However, taking that course of action may in turn result in some ramifications down the road, if ever stopped without such a permission slip, so use your best judgement.

It was good to see the inclusion of the “Roadblocks” section, as they seem to be popping-up more. Without question, when the free movement of peaceful people is hampered it’s not a good indicator. Yet, there was no mention of borderless checkpoints, which now exist on on roads that never cross the arbitrary political boundaries between nation-states. If you should encounter one of these, your best bet is to ask “Am I free to go? Am I being detained?” until that happens. You’ll likely be peppered with the question “Are you an american citizen?” by a couple people before that happens, and you may even be directed to “secondary” but you have no obligation to answer that question or drive to that area. Also, as if to underscore the this-infographic-is-couched-on-legislation angle touched on before, the claim that “Agents may legally search anything without warrant” is pretty far-reaching. While some may not question such a claim, think about it – because of some text on paper some folks you’ve never met claim the right to stop you and look through all your belongings. Keep in mind you’ve not harmed anyone. Once such an ability is granted, it can only set the stage for more incursions…


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Pete Eyre

Pete Eyre is co-founder of CopBlock.org. As an advocate of peaceful, consensual interactions, he seeks to inject a message of complete liberty and self-government into the conversation of police accountability. Eyre went to undergrad and grad school for law enforcement, then spent time in DC as an intern at the Cato Institute, a Koch Fellow at the Drug Policy Alliance, Directer of Campus Outreach at the Institute for Humane Studies, Crasher-in-Chief at Bureaucrash, and as a contractor for the Future of Freedom Foundation. In 2009 he left the belly of the beast and hit the road with Motorhome Diaries and later co-founded Liberty On Tour. He spent time in New Hampshire home, and was involved with Free Keene, the Free State Project and The Daily Decrypt.